Tottenham’s Conte blasts crazy expectations
LONDON – Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte has claimed last year’s top-four finish in the English Premier League was “a miracle” and said pre-season expectations of a title tilt were ludicrous.
Speaking after a Sunday’s dismal 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa that left Tottenham in fifth place, 13 points behind leaders Arsenal, the Italian offered a dose of harsh reality.
“Last season we made a miracle,” Conte, who took charge in November 2021 and rejuvenated the team, told reporters.
“Because we played only one competition, and we played with 12 or 13 players and they didn’t have injuries in the last 15 games, we played with our best players every game because, I repeat, we played only the league.
“Don’t forget with three games to go Arsenal were four points ahead of us and that we finished 20 points less from Manchester City and we did a miracle, but I knew the situation.”
Tottenham were booed off on Sunday as they barely managed a shot at Villa’s goal. In mitigation, they were without the creative spark of Dejan Kulusevski, who was injured, and Brazilian forward Richarlison who was also unavailable.
Rodrigo Bentancur was also out and Tottenham’s squad looks short of the depth to sustain a challenge for a top-four finish and in the Champions League, where they are in the last 16.
“I remember very well in the summer, at the start, people talked about Tottenham as title contenders but in my experience it was a bit crazy to read this,” he said.
“To become a title contender, to become a team ready to fight to win something you need to have a solid foundation. That means to have 14 or 15 strong players, quality and the other young players to develop.”
Conte will seek squad strengthening in the transfer window but whether he gets it is another matter.
“At the start of the season, I was very clear with the club. I said ‘ok we can be competitive to win but try to continue to improve but in the way that we can do it’, because also you have to know that there are clubs who can invest 200 or 300 million and others with different policies,” he said.
“The policy has to be very clear with all people otherwise we created a situation that’s not positive for the environment to create expectations that are not realistic.
“This is only to create an illusion and create dreams. If you are realistic, you know the situation and you face the moment in the right way.”
However, former Spurs midfielder Jamie Redknapp suggested that Conte is merely seeking an “exit clause”.
The former England international said on Sky Sports: “I don’t like the way this is shaping up, with Antonio Conte and Daniel Levy. I can see cracks appearing, (Mauricio) Pochettino in the wings, I don’t feel this is going to end up the way it should do.
“I’m a big Antonio Conte fan but I think there’s going to be a fallout pretty soon... He’s definitely searching for something right now, Conte, and it looks like he’s looking for an exit clause.
“Levy will hate that kind of message being sent to him.” - REUTERS
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