Antonio Conte exclusive: Tottenham exit ‘almost certain’ on one condition, with change of narrative anticipated
It looks “almost certain” that Antonio Conte won’t be Tottenham manager next season if one thing unfolds, although he can start changing the narrative in the weeks ahead, Ben Jacobs has told TEAMtalk.
Conte is due to reach the end of his contract with Tottenham at the end of the season. For a while now, there has been plenty of speculation about whether he will extend his stay at the club. Some pressure has been building in recent weeks, heightened by Spurs’ exit from the Champions League at the hands of AC Milan.
Coming a week after their elimination from the FA Cup to second-tier side Sheffield United, it has not helped the perception of Tottenham’s direction under Conte.
In fairness to the Italian, he has been in recovery after an operation to remove his gallbladder recently. He was back on the touchline against Milan, and already, his future is back under discussion.
The situation is turning a bit sour, with Tottenham forward Richarlison hitting out at Conte’s selection decisions. The manager himself has even acknowledged that he could be sacked by Spurs before his contract expires.
Hence, there is plenty of uncertainty to unpack. Now, one day after their Champions League exit, Ben Jacobs has given TEAMtalk the latest on the pressure Conte might be facing – and how he could yet have an opportunity right in front of him.
“Well, Antonio Conte didn’t sound very happy after the Champions League defeat,” Jacobs said. “And the tone that he was using was not only one of disappointment because Tottenham went out, but almost of wider resignation, about the inconsistency of Tottenham and after a very positive leapfrogging of Arsenal last season to get Champions League football, Tottenham have been inconsistent, and the only saving grace really is that they’re still fourth in the table.
“And although Liverpool have got that game in hand, and Newcastle have got two games in hand, they’re very much in the race for Champions League football, but they’re not scoring goals. They’ve conceded a ton this season, and given teams headstarts, and as a result, it’s a pivotal time now, because Conte has to find a way to build momentum.
“But actually, there’s a feeling he will go at the end of the season, it’s very difficult because the mood of the football club is perhaps one of transition and uncertainty. And when a manager is outgoing, and the form is inconsistent, that’s a recipe in some respects for a lack of progress and momentum.”
Antonio Conte can change narrative in March
“So I look now at the March period in particular, and I think this is a really good opportunity for Conte to start changing that narrative,” Jacobs continued. “He’s back on the touchline which is great to see.
“He’s recovered, and now it’s a chance maybe for Tottenham to win a string of games on paper that they should be able to get three points from; they’ve got Nottingham Forest, they’ve got Southampton. They’ve got Everton, they’ve got Brighton, they’ve got Bournemouth and if heading into that mid-April period before then they have those massive season-defining games against Newcastle, Manchester United and Liverpool. If they can go on a run where they win four or five of those games then the season will have a completely different complexion on it. Conte’s future will have a different complexion on it and Harry Kane’s future will have a different complexion of it.
“Usually we talk about the race for Champions League football as late April, early May. And obviously that trio of games against Newcastle, Manchester United and Liverpool will still define Tottenham’s season. But if they can get five straight wins before that, then they might have a little bit of breathing space because Newcastle wobbling a little bit and obviously Manchester United were thrashed away at Liverpool, which shows you that they’re still fallible, and Liverpool have been inconsistent all season as well, even though they may have turned a corner.
“So this is a real opportunity for Tottenham to respond positively after their Champions League loss and change the narrative a bit. And you know, the key thing for Tottenham, with everything, with their budget over the window, potentially with Conte if there is a desire to stay beyond the end of the season, and with Kane, it’s still all about getting Champions League football. And without that top four, I think that it is almost certain that Conte will leave at the end of the season. But with that top four, there’s just a question mark over his head still.”
Tottenham are next in action on Saturday when they host Nottingham Forest upon their return to Premier League duties.
Read on for the second part of Jacobs’ exclusive, revealing who might be in contention to take over from Conte.