Sunday, October 1, 2023

Antonio Conte hits back at critics over Tottenham methods: “I’m not stupid”

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Bristling Antonio Conte came out swinging with a robust defence of his methods, insisting: “I’m not stupid – I can teach football to many people.”

Stung by criticism of Tottenham’s supine defeat over the garden fence in north London, Conte levelled an indirect dig at Manchester United shipping six in their own derby with a reminder his teams have never been so porous.

But with Spurs stuttering after two defeats in their last three games, the fiery Italian conceded his team needed to “play with more personality” in red-hot atmospheres after dropping points in three London derbies and slipping to a Champions League defeat in Lisbon.

Another ear-splitting din is coming Tottenham’s way tonight in the Deutsche Bank Park, and another defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt would leave Conte facing an uphill battle to make headway in Europe. He has not enjoyed the contrast between pundits raving about Arsenal’s fluid style and Spurs’ more ponderous approach.

Conte claimed: “If we were able to exploit the situation, especially last passes, we would have been able to score many goals against Arsenal. Instead we made really bad mistakes for the last passes because we had the opportunity to go one-to-one, but every team has to think and understand the way to play different games.

“Last season we won 3-0 (against Arsenal) and, when you win, the opponent has to explain, but for me it’s important to have a plan, to put my players in the best possible situation to exploit their characteristics.
Otherwise it can happen that you can concede six, seven or eight goals – in England that happens a lot of times. In my career never, never happened because I don’t like to play open, concede a lot of space and concede six, seven or eight goals. I won in England, I won in my past and I think I can teach football to many people.”

Conte gave short shrift to supporters clamouring for £20 million wing-back Djed Spence, who has been limited to a walk-on part against Nottingham Forest, to be given more game time. He snapped: “The fans have to be fans. They can think anything but I see every day the training sessions. If I don’t decide to pick a player, it’s because maybe he’s not ready.

“We are talking about a young player with a good prospect, but I try to pick the best team. I’m not stupid, I don’t want to lose. I try to pick the best team. If they trust me it’s , if they don’t trust me then I’m the coach and I need to take the best decision for Tottenham.”

Conte has demanded no hangovers from Tottenham’s crushing disappointment at the Emirates – and he wants to see more evidence that his players can handle the white noise of big occasions. He admitted: “For sure, this is the story. Also last season in Europe, we lost many games away. We lost to Pacos de Ferreira, we lost against Vitesse and then we lost against Mura with me.

“This season it’s the same story – we lost against Sporting and now Arsenal away. And then we drew with West Ham and Chelsea. We have to do much better when we play away. It’s part of the process, the team has to improve in personality and to be strong when we play away. We need to have patience but at the same time, we need to try to change the situation.”

Conte will be without Swedish forward Dejan Kulusevski (hamstring) again on Tuesday night but Ben Davies and Bryan Gil are back in the squad, while winger Ivan Perisic returns to a country where he won the German cup with Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich.

The Croatian was critical of his team-mates’ application in the north London derby defeat, saying: “We have to show it was only a bad day. We have to play better, we have to run more and we have to fight for the club. This is what we didn’t do in the last game.”

In-form Frankfurt inflicted a first defeat of the season on surprise Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin at the weekend, but World Cup hero Mario Goetze – who scored Germany’s winner against Argentina in the 2014 final – will be missing. Eintracht coach Oliver Glasner said: “Mario will be out, he has too much pain in his ankle. He cannot be at 100 per cent.”

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