Antonio Conte has clarified to the Tottenham board that his furious outburst was aimed purely at the players and not the owner or the chairman.
It is business as usual at Tottenham despite an extraordinary rant in which Conte called his Spurs players “selfish” after his side threw away a two-goal lead at bottom side Southampton.
He also appeared to attack the club’s ownership but it is understood Conte’s clarification to the board pointed out he asked why only the club and managers take responsibility for not winning while the players get “alibis”.
Conte’s rant: What he said about the board
“The club has the responsibility for the transfer market, every coach that stayed here has the responsibility. And the players? The players? Where are the players?
“Twenty years there is the owner and they never won something but why? The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stay here?
“You are finding an alibi, another alibi. You try to find an excuse for the players. OK, continue to do this, to find an excuse for the players. You do only this! You do only this. Excuses for the players. ‘But the players, maybe, my future, then we lost confidence, they lost spirit, they lost being a team’. Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. Try to protect them every time.”
Players and staff are currently on a pre-scheduled two days off and will report back to the training ground on Tuesday, which would have been the case regardless of the result.
There has been no public reaction from the players in response to Conte’s comments as yet, with Christian Romero and Pedro Porro the only players to have posted on social media since the outburst.
Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher said he believed Conte wants to be sacked following the Italian’s rant, while Jamie Redknapp feels the Italian’s position is becoming untenable.
Conte’s Spurs contract expires this summer, and Sky Sports’ Gary Neville said he would “keep him right where he is and make him do his job”.
Sky Sports News reported earlier this month that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is under huge pressure to reappoint Mauricio Pochettino as Spurs manager, with several players and staff pleading with the Argentine to return and reinvigorate the club.
Tottenham’s collapse at St Mary’s capped off a miserable March in which they were dumped out of both the FA Cup and the Champions League to leave them trophyless since 2008.
Analysis: From ‘glory game’ to ‘blame game’
This was supposed to be a season when Spurs built on the progress made last season, but it has been a disappointing campaign and the latest low point was throwing away a 3-1 lead at Southampton on Saturday.
That appeared to be the final straw for Conte and he did not hold back in his post-match press conference. But who is really to blame for what’s gone wrong this season?
Here, Sky Sports News reporter Michael Bridge dissects that question from three different perspectives – Conte, the board and the fans.
Conte got pretty much everything off his chest in front of the media on Saturday. We’ve seen it before, of course. Conte has a track record of speaking his mind to journalists when he was manager of Juventus, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Italy.
We got a glimpse of what was to come when he questioned whether he was the right man for the job after the 1-0 defeat at Burnley in February last year. He later admitted that those comments were meant to challenge the players but Saturday felt more personal.
The big question is what the club hierarchy will make of his comments. Conte has consistently told reporters he has honest with the board, telling them what needs to be done for the club to take that next big step.
It was clear on Saturday that he is frustrated that his players often appear to get a free pass when it comes to criticism in the media but questioning their commitment could be a dangerous game despite the fact many Spurs fans think there are players at the club who are just not good enough.
Conte can point to injury problems as part of the reason for what’s gone wrong this season. Serious injuries to Hugo Lloris and more importantly Rodrigo Bentancur have not helped but every manager has to put up with players being out.
He can also point to the fact that last season’s Golden Boot winner Heung-min Son has scored just six times this season.
Harry Kane is always going to get you goals but Conte knows a successful team cannot rely on just one key player no matter how good he is.
Any review of Conte’s own performance this season has to acknowledge it has been a very tough campaign for him on a personal level. He has lost three close friends and had gallbladder surgery.
Only he seems to know if he will sign a new deal, but that’s looking extremely unlikely right now.
Daniel Levy is a big fan of Conte. At the staff Christmas party, his name was mentioned throughout his speech.
It was all so positive but that seems like a long time ago now.
The board have always been were aware Conte does not like to work with long contracts and the mutual view was they would discuss an extension during this season, a season that promised so much.
Spurs were third favourites for the title last summer and they deserved to be after such a promising end to last season – three wins in a row including beating Arsenal 3-0. Levy has every right to look forward to the following season knowing he had one of the most respected and successful coaches in football in his dugout.
Of course Levy and the board have faced criticism about transfer spend and policy but they would argue that they have backed Conte. Richarlison arrived for big money from Everton, Yves Bissouma was a key player at Brighton and Conte wanted Ivan Perisic, but despite all that you could argue the most successful signing from last summer has been back-up goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
For all the money that has been spent, the defence looks woefully lacking in quality and when first-choice centre-back targets were unavailable last summer, Clement Lenglet was brought in on loan and he has failed to convince.
Fans often blame the club’s leadership for the fact Spurs have won just one major trophy during Levy’s time, but previous managers – plus Conte – are also to blame, especially when it comes to questionable team selection in major semi-finals and finals.
Just when Spurs fans thought they were heading for a relaxing two weeks off during the international break, it’s all suddenly all doom and gloom again. The club who were famous for the glory game are playing the blame game again.
It is amazing to think Spurs were seconds away from going into the break third in the Premier League but woeful game management when 3-1 up and a controversial penalty changed all that.
Many fans now think finishing in the top four would not be enough to make up for a disappointing and dispiriting campaign. You don’t get a trophy for finishing fourth and the FA Cup defeat at Sheffield United last month was one of the defining 90 minutes of the season.
Some Spurs supporters think Conte was right to speak out on Saturday. They say his criticism of the players and the board was long overdue. However, there are also many fans who believe Conte is paid more than enough to accept responsibility, change formation and get more out of the squad.
One issue all supporters can agree on is that Conte’s contract coming to an end this summer has played a big part in the uncertainty hanging over the club.
How can you expect to build when the man in charge has no intention of committing his future to the club? How can you be working on summer transfers when nobody knows if Conte is staying or going?
Spurs fans used to mock Mikel Arteta’s “trust the process” mantra at the start of his time as Arsenal manager, now they’re envious of that very process.
On the day Beyoncé is due to play at what used to be called White Hart Lane, Arsenal could be parading the Premier League trophy down the road.
Ten months ago, Spurs beat Arsenal 3-0 at home. That is a very distant memory now.
As the red half of North London goes from strength to strength, Daniel Levy & Co are having to draw up contingency plans for yet another rebuild – and their 13th manager in 20 years.