Tottenham manager Antonio Conte says fans can make their own minds up over whether to trust his judgement over summer signing Djed Spence.
Spurs signed the right-back from Middlesbrough after he starred on loan at Nottingham Forest. The 22-year-old played a starring role in their promotion and former Boro boss Chris Wilder was subsequently happy to let him go.
England Under-21 international Spence came in as an exciting prospect, but he has yet to hit the ground running.
In fact, his only Tottenham appearance to date was the briefest of cameos away at Forest in August’s Premier League clash.
Either side of that, Emerson Royal has mostly played at right wing-back, with Ivan Perisic filling in too. Perisic has also played at left wing-back, interchanging with Ryan Sessegnon.
But, amid Tottenham’s two defeats in three – including Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Arsenal – some fans have called on Conte to give Spence a proper chance. However, Conte has hit back, claiming that Tottenham supporters need to trust his decisions.
“The fans have to be fans. They can think anything but I see every day the training sessions,” Conte told the Daily Express.
“If they trust me, they trust me, but the choices are mine. If I don’t decide to pick a player, it’s because he’s maybe not ready.
“We are talking about a young player with a good prospect, but I repeat I try to pick the best team. Also [Matt] Doherty last season played every game.
“Now I’m not seeing him in the right way to start the game. I’m not stupid, I don’t want to lose.”
Conte hits back over Tottenham star Spence
Former Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood has slammed Emerson, claiming the Brazilian “will let you down time and time again”.
But Conte hit back at the criticism for not selecting Spence. He said: “I try to put the best team, to pick the best team.
“If they trust me it’s ok, if they don’t trust me then I’m the coach and I need to take the best decision for Tottenham.”
Sherwood also insisted that Conte has “too much belief” in his system to change his trusted formation.
Conte said of a potential tactical tweak: “With this type of players and this squad we can play with these two systems, 3-4-3 and a 3-5-2.
“Also, Bissouma who is a good player who can play with the two midfielders and the two strikers can be Sonny [Son Heung-min] and [Harry] Kane or Richarlison and Kane.”
Tottenham’s drop in form has been a worrying one after they ground out wins at the start of the season.
Spurs star needs time and patience
There were reports in the summer that a major reason Spence signed for Tottenham was to add to their homegrown quota.
Indeed, Conte reportedly sought a third wing-back signing in Nicolo Zaniolo after Spence and Perisic.
However, October and November could be the months in which Spence gets his Spurs career up and running.
Tottenham have eight more games to play in October after Saturday’s defeat to Arsenal. There are then four more games slotted in before the mid-season break for the World Cup.
Conte has stuck with Perisic and Emerson so far, but he may well change it up and give Spence a go.
The worrying thing is, though, that the further the season progresses, the bigger the games become for the Premier League top-four race and Champions League progression.
As such, there are still concerns for Spence over his game time.