The Spurs boss branded them “selfish” and accused his team of lacking spirit and fight in their performances, labelling the problems symptomatic of wider issues with the club. He added: “It is the same every season, no matter who the manager is. They’re used to it here.
“They don’t want to play for something important. They don’t want to play under pressure. They don’t want to play under stress. Tottenham’s story is this. 20 years there is the owner and they never won something.” It seemed apparent pre-match that Conte will leave once the season finishes but the Italian may now be gone even sooner.
Performances and results on the pitch had already made it increasingly clear that a split is necessary. But Conte’s comments sour the mood, one which was already grim, even further. Daniel Levy may need to sack him before his contract is up, even if he has to pay out as a consequence.
Conte has now surely lost the dressing room after his comments. He’d already started to lose the fanbase with recent performances and results, namely their FA Cup and Champions League exits. And what must Levy and Joe Lewis think of the manager’s latest outburst? It doesn't take much to assume they won't be happy behind the scenes.
To clinch a top-four finish Spurs need confidence and consistency. They need harmony between the fans, the manager and the Players. He may have a world-class CV but there are huge question marks over Conte and whether he can galvanise the same group he has just ruthlessly lambasted to journalists.
Indeed, with his actions, it appears Conte himself doesn’t want to be in this job. Step up Mauricio Pochettino, who would at the very least quickly improve the mood inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. That would be very beneficial ahead of the last 10 games of the campaign, which include testing clashes against Brighton, Newcastle, Manchester United, Liverpool and Brentford.
The much-loved Pochettino’s return would undoubtedly be a fillip for the Spurs fans at a time where both the team and the fanbase need a lift. Qualifying for next year’s Champions League otherwise looks unlikely, even though Spurs are at present fourth in the table.
With Chelsea and Liverpool still faltering, Spurs still have a great opportunity to clinch fourth despite their inconsistencies and Newcastle's return to winning ways. If Pochettino can help lift the doom and gloom, performances can improve in tandem in the short term, especially with a return to more free-flowing attacking football.
Levy has shown ruthlessness before, not least by sacking Pochettino four years ago and with his dismissal of Jose Mourinho on the eve of the 2021 Carabao Cup final. Acting fast to get rid of Conte now and to bring back Pochettino would be pricey, but it may be the tonic that Spurs sorely need to avoid their current malaise continuing on into the summer.
Spurs need an alleviator rapidly. And that is not just to secure Champions League football, but to have any chance of keeping Harry Kane and avoiding an even greater period of transition next term than they already face. Pochettino could be that man. Levy has much to think about over the next fortnight.