Tottenham’s players believe that Antonio Conte is “going or gone”, according to a dressing-room source, with their only question about the manager’s future concerning the timing of his departure.
Conte is widely expected to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season, although it is understood that some of the players would welcome him going immediately. There are serious doubts over whether enough of them are still behind him.
The Italian made a typically dramatic move on Saturday after the late capitulation at Southampton, when the team surrendered a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3, placing a dent in their top‑four hopes – the target for the remainder of the season. He attacked the players in his post-match press conference, labelling them “selfish”, accusing them of lacking “fire in the eyes” and blaming them for the club’s ongoing trophy drought.
Conte had said previously that his players struggled to cope under pressure and he doubled down on the criticism – and many others – during a blistering rant, which could be interpreted as a last roll of the dice to gee them up for their final 10 games of the season. Despite it all, Spurs continue to sit fourth. Newcastle are two points back in fifth and with two matches in hand.
On the Friday before last, in the wake of the Champions League last-16 elimination against Milan, Conte had gone for the fans, saying their lack of patience with regard to trophies had affected the players and created the wrong atmosphere. The comments were extraordinary, although they were certainly matched by those after the Southampton game.
It has been noticeable that Conte has avoided criticising the chairman, Daniel Levy, who himself remains under heavy fire from the support; they point to the club having won only the 2008 Carling Cup on his 22-year watch. It has added up to a messy and volatile situation as the international break begins. The team are next in action at Everton on 3 April.
The club have been linked with a host of new managers, including Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel – both of whom are out of work but with a lot of variables in play. If Levy wants to make a change now, at the business end of the season, he could find that other targets who are in work are out of reach.