After the highs of their spectacular win at Manchester City, Tottenham and Antonio Conte were brought crashing back down to earth after suffering a defeat against relegation-threatened Burnley.
The loss was Spurs’ fourth in their last five league matches and leaves them in eighth place - seven points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United in the battle to qualify for the Champions League.
Such a position is wildly unfamiliar for Conte who has won five league titles in his last seven seasons in club management – including the English title during a spell at Chelsea.
'I want to finish my season' - Conte considering quitting Spurs after latest defeat
Following the match, the fiery Italian was not shy in letting his feelings about his current predicament at the north London club be known.
"We are working a lot, we are working hard, I think we are doing everything to try to improve but it’s not enough, very frustrating. First time in my life, four defeats in five. Maybe I am not so good," he said.
"Tottenham called me to improve but I’m honest and I can’t close my eyes. I want to finish my season. I hate to lose, we lost four in last five games.
"This is unacceptable. I won't accept it. I want to try to move the situation. Maybe we have to take more attention and we can finish when I arrive here in same position.”
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'Maybe I'm not so good' - Conte hints at Spurs exit after Burnley defeat
This bombshell admission has raised eyebrows both inside and outside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with fears that his time at the club he only joined last November, might be coming to a very swift end.
Conte has form for this too. His exit from Inter just last summer came off the back of a Serie A title win but also a disagreement with club hierarchy over transfer plans going forward.
His departure from Stamford Bridge was also under something of a cloud as despite winning the FA Cup in his final season, the club finished fifth in the league, and Conte was vocal about not being able to land his preferred transfer targets. There were even reports of disagreements with some players.
However, having initially earmarked him to take over in the summer before eventually landing him in the autumn, Tottenham will hope the emotional outburst was just a case of him being 'blinded by anger'.
As suggested, this reaction isn’t the first by Conte in his career. It isn’t even his first at Tottenham! Within three weeks of his arrival he claimed ‘the level at Tottenham is not so high’ and then complained that his squad had been ‘weakened’ after their January transfer business – despite the signings of Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur.
Could these pointed quotes be calculated? Conte could be sending a message to the Tottenham hierarchy, not just about the squad needing strengthening but also an open and frank admission of the work he needs to do with the team to get them on track.
It’s also very much the case that all the talk after the game has been about Conte rather than Spurs’ dismal display so he could be trying to protect his players in a roundabout way.
Making a point about transfers now, long after the transfer window is shut, is a fruitless exercise too and Conte surely knows this, so his best course of action is getting these same players to try and show the same sort of determination that saw them beat the reigning champions in their previous match in such dramatic and impressive circumstances.
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What might worry Tottenham fans is the fact Conte has no real experience of successfully fighting fires. His history is primarily joining or taking teams on an upward trajectory – promotions and league titles for example.
Early on in his career, when facing adversity in change of Atalanta, Conte could not turn the tide and was sacked.
Things would have to continue on their current course for a similar outcome in north London and the expectation is that he should make it until the summer when the reinforcements he requires will hopefully be delivered.
The fact he was prepared to take the job mid-season was something of a surprise in itself given how particular Conte is about how he works and wanting his own players. He must have truly believed in the project if he was willing to change his previously habitual way of working.
However, a huge PSG-shaped elephant in the room could catch his attention if the situation does not improve and Mauricio Pochettino’s job comes under threat in Paris.
For now, Conte needs to steady the swaying Tottenham ship, starting with a much-needed win against struggling Leeds in their next game.
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