Antonio Conte cannot imagine selecting Spurs team without Harry Kane

  • Manager describes striker as Tottenham’s ‘point of reference’
  • Striker remains stuck on one Premier League goal this season

Antonio Conte says he cannot currently imagine selecting a Tottenham team without Harry Kane and that Spurs do not have the option to rest their misfiring talisman over the Christmas period.

Kane remains stuck on one Premier League goal for the season after drawing a blank, and missing a clear chance, during Thursday’s 2-0 win over Brentford. There were suggestions that his sharpness is returning, though, and afterwards a satisfied Conte called him Tottenham’s “point of reference”. Should that remain the case in their eight remaining December fixtures he will have played 69 matches for club and country this year, but Conte maintains there is no viable alternative.

“If I answer in an honest way, to start a game without Harry now is a bit difficult for me,” he said when the topic of giving the England captain a breather was raised. “We are talking about an important player for us. I hope to improve the situation, to improve the confidence of all the players and to see that maybe without Harry we can cover the situation – not in the same way, but in a way that can be good to get three points. Now in this moment, honestly, I don’t see this team starting without Harry.”

Tottenham’s second goal against Brentford resulted from a slick Kane pass to Sergio Reguilón and Conte reiterated that he was more than happy with the striker’s broader output. “I always like to be honest with my players and if I wasn’t satisfied with Harry’s performances, for sure I would tell him,” he said. “But I repeat: I’m very satisfied with his performances, he is playing well and doing fantastic work for the team.”

Spurs have taken seven points from a potential nine in the league under Conte and, albeit at an early stage of the season, find themselves propelled from nowhere into the driving seat for a top-four spot. They will be fourth on Sunday night, with a game in hand on most rivals, if they beat Norwich at home and West Ham have lost to Chelsea on Saturday. Given Conte said his side’s level was “not so high” after the chastening defeat to NS Mura, he was asked whether a Champions League spot in May would put them ahead of schedule.

Antonio Conte tries to get a point across to his players during Tottenham’s win against Brentford
Antonio Conte tries to get a point across to his players during Tottenham’s win against Brentford. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

“I asked the club for another month to understand very well the situation and to make the right evaluation because I think this is fair,” he said, the inference being that he will be clearer on Spurs’ prospects by the time the transfer window opens. “The most important thing for us to try to improve the situation is [by] working. Then if there is the possibility to improve the quality, we will try to do it.”

Conte explained he had been given no hard and fast targets by Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, and might have rejected the job had that not been the case.

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“When I arrived and spoke with the club, they didn’t ask me for anything,” he said. “Daniel Levy wanted me strongly, not because I will bring with me stupid promises. [He] wanted me here for my reputation, for my work, my ideas, my method, my capacity to build something important, especially because in the start they didn’t have a solid foundation.

“I think he wanted me for this reason and I accepted for this reason. Honestly, if he asked me something different I would probably have said: ‘Thanks very much but it’s not the right moment.’”


Nick Ames

The GuardianTramp

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