Rome was not built in a day and against NS Mura Antonio Conte learnt Tottenham’s weaknesses as a much changed team struggled to a 2-1 loss in Slovenia in the Europa Conference League.
Antonio Conte Learns Tottenham Weaknesses as NS Mura Deliver Damning Win
Spurs’ Fringe Players Disappoint
NS Mura had no points in the Conference League until this match and achieved what is without doubt the greatest moment in their history. The five thousand Mura fans were in ecstasy at the final whistle. But, for Antonio Conte this was an eye opening moment. He discovered one of the biggest weaknesses at his new club. And that is strength in depth.
It wasn’t a surprise that he made changes from the team that beat Leeds United in the Premier League, but if the Italian was hoping to see fringe players laying down a marker and let him know they can fight for a place in his team, he was sorely disappointed. What he saw was players who need to be moved on as soon as possible and players brought in who who will give him what he expects. And that is passion and commitment no matter the game, no matter the opposition and no matter the competition.
Dele Alli’s Future at Spurs Looks Bleak
Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espírito Santo and now Conte have managed Dele Alli and each have found a player that was once the shining star of the English game struggling to perform. Some early runs in behind the Mura defence didn’t come to anything, but it was when he had the ball at his feet that he really struggled.
Passing was wayward and his energy levels look to have been sapped from his entire being. Some of his performance may be down to lacking in confidence but where he should have been chomping at the bit to show his new boss what he could do, he instead delivered a poor display and when he was finally taken off there seemed to be little sympathy from Conte. The body language of the former MK Dons star suggested his time at Spurs, maybe even in the Premier League, may well have irreversibly run its course.
Davinson Sanchez’s Woes Continue
Sanchez has yet to impress at Spurs and this was another game where he was found wanting in the most basic of situations not once but twice. Tommy Horvat grabbed the opener with a superb left footed finish into the top corner, but the defending from Sanchez was poor. Instead of keeping Horvat on his right foot, he slipped and allowed him onto his left foot and the outcome was almost inevitable. Conte was livid on the touchline but that ire would get much worse with the final kick of the game.
Harry Kane had brought Spurs level with a neat chip over the keeper on 71 minutes, which looked like it may save Spurs’ and Ryan Sessegnon’s blushes – who was sent off for two naive challenges leading to two yellow cards. With one final push, Mura broke free against the 10 men of Spurs and Sanchez made exactly the same mistake again. Amadej Marosa turned onto his left foot and got away a shot that looped off Sanchez and into the net to give Mura a famous victory. Conte stood in a silent rage, bereft of understanding of what he had just seen in front of his eyes.
Conte Made Nine Changes but Weaknesses Clear
Making nine changes to a team is always going to have a risk attached to it but facing a Slovenian league team who sit fifth in their league should have been a routine win for the players on show. Conte would have wanted energy and commitment and he got neither. It is hard to see where some players will now fit in at Spurs and on this performance.
Dele, Sanchez, Sessegnon and Matt Doherty all look like players who will struggle to get minutes under Conte, who is not a manager who accepts anything less than 110%. Tanguy Ndombele is a player who has talent and he did show the odd flash of it but rarely got control of the midfield and is starting to edge toward becoming something of an enigma at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Tottenham must now beat Rennes in the final group game to stay in the competition with a win putting then into the play-off stage where they will face a two legged game against one of the third placed sides in the tournament.
Antonio Conte Press Conference: “Level of Tottenham is Not So High”
Speaking at the press conference following the defeat in Slovenia, Conte acknowledged that the game was a wake up call:
“I did not like what happened tonight, the performance. I must be honest and tell you that after three and a half weeks, I am starting to understand the situation. I can tell you that the situation is not simple. It is not simple because in this moment because for sure the level of Tottenham is not so high.” (Football London)
Conte is just three weeks into the job but he is aware of the problems that he needs to deal with:
“I am here for this because the club decided to change the club because there are problems, but the problems they are problems. I’m here to work and I’m enthusiastic to work, to rebuild an important situation for Tottenham.
“We need time but also to do better in everything, everything. We have to do better in everything, everything, everything. To have ambition, ambition in football is important for me.”
Not for the first time since becoming Spurs’ new boss, Conte referred to the great Stadium but wants the club to now be focused on the football and becoming winners in the stadium:
“The club is outstanding outside, to create a stadium but now we start from behind. It is important to know this because I am not a magician and after three weeks I have found players that want to work and have great commitment but sometimes it is not enough.”
As Antonio Conte Learns Tottenham Weaknesses, Players Must Stand Tall
With the January transfer window only five weeks away, Conte now has a good chance to see what this Spurs squad are made of and he will be working with Fabio Paratici to bring in fresh faces to improve and re-energise the side. Conte has said he will need time, but he is not a manager to wait for success to come to him. He will go after players to help him bring success to Tottenham Hotspur and the defeat to Mura will surely have shown him that some of his current squad are not the right men for the job.
January is the time that the painful rebuild that has been needed for some time really needs to kick into gear.
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