Conte gives you one last f*** to finally answer the question of who would prevail: him or Spursiness

Antonio Conte may have just held the most entertaining press conference in Premier League history.

It was one that provided one final crucial answer to the question we asked when he was appointed Spurs manager: would Conte be able to cure Spursiness or would Spursiness engulf him? It was bumpy there for a while but given the way his reign has now safely come to an end, Conte was beaten by a last-minute winner. Spursiness remains undefeated.

While the emotion and anger in Conte’s response to a pathetic 3-3 draw at Southampton for which, if he’s honest with himself, he has a lot to blame but is undeniably genuine, there’s also a very obvious and very cynical side to his performance – a word too strong for his team against Saints, but his attitude after the game is entirely appropriate. It’s been clear for a few weeks that Conte doesn’t want to be with Spurs, but he doesn’t want to quit and lose a nice fat payout either. Three months is a long time when you have £15m a year. It’s also clear that Daniel Levy doesn’t really want to pay out Conte and would rather call it quits in the summer when Conte’s contract expires.

Conte has deprived Levy of that option by going fully nuclear. Full Mourinho. It is now completely unthinkable that Levy could allow Conte to stay in place for the last two months of the season and as much as it will irk him to give Conte exactly what he wants, he will have to sack him. Conte made his position untenable in two ways: accidentally with his pathetic and now totally exposed prehistoric football; and very consciously by attacking his players, the club and most importantly Levy himself. The weakness that Levy would now show by letting that stand is unthinkable. The only reason to imagine Spurs won’t be rid of the manager now at the start of the international break is that he doggedly endured two weeks of negativity and inconvenience before failing to score in the 1-0 defeat at Sean Dyche and Everton THEN firing him is probably even more on the mark.

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Because yes, Spurs are very spursy. Much what Conte said about the club on Saturday was true.

“You’re used to it here. Don’t play for something important. You don’t want to play under pressure. You don’t want to play under stress. Tottenham’s story is as follows. The owner has been there for twenty years and they have never won anything. Why?”

Aside from the 2008 Carling Cup being axed, nothing Conte said there can really be disputed. But it’s not about whether he’s right or wrong; the point is, he made it worse. Spurs started in two cup competitions this month and finished fourth as favourites. None of that is true now and the main reason for all of that is Conte himself. Even if it were the players, the common denominator would still be the manager.

Of course he’s right about Spurs not having silverware. But he’s the man who goes seven minutes ahead to find a goal against a hard-hitting average AC Milan, replacing Dejan Kulusevski with Davinson Sanchez. He’s the man who chose not to even try to win the FA Cup. And he’s the man largely responsible for the defeat at Wolves and the dam-busting draw at Southampton that has left their top-four chances bleak.

What Spurs have or haven’t done over the last 20 years wasn’t the topic this weekend. The problem was that faced with a 3-1 lead against the worst team in the Premier League, who were out of centre-backs left on the pitch, Conte looked into his big tactics book and again decided that Side 1 (“Just do the most negative thing possible and hope for the best”) contained all the answers he needed. Southampton were encouraged, although any decent manager, any serious team, would not have offered any.

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And his complaints about players can be as accurate as they are scathing. But he must see that they condemn him too. If the players are selfish and only interested in themselves – which clearly sounded like projection to us – then the manager has to take responsibility for this situation himself.

If only Conte’s football had been half as entertaining or effective as his hilariously transparent attempts this season Force Levy to fire himthen maybe we wouldn’t be here.

For the most fundamental flaw in Conte’s assessment of the situation lies in his own place in it. The Spurs story has become Conte’s free ticket to his release from prison. Any mistake he makes he can dismiss by saying, “Guys, it’s Tottenham.” Lose with a whimper at Sheffield United? “Guys, it’s Tottenham.” Can’t you deal a blow to Milan in 180 minutes of tactical, playful, joyless football? Not me, Boss: Spursy, that.

I’ve just never seen anything like Antonio Conte’s press conference. Tried to trip everyone else with him for 10 minutes. It was such an amazing achievement that one almost had to admire it.

— Jack Pitt Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) March 18, 2023

Conte has based his entire Spurs reign around two guiding principles and brought them to their essence this weekend. Firstly, that he is doing the club a huge favor by being here. And second, that he’s a £15million-a-year passive viewer who is as horrified and at a loss and powerless as anyone to stop what is unfolding.

You can’t have both, Antonio. It’s as ridiculous as being bald but insisting you have hair. However, by forcing Levy’s hand like he’s doing now with this dynamite display, he’ll be able to have his cake and eat it again. He’ll get his reward, one last fuck up for a club he’s barely kept a secret — and now openly hostile — despised all along. A manager who is actually worth £15m-a-year would not complain about the club’s ‘culture’ as his contract expires; he would try to build a better one. The truth is that Spurs haven’t had a culture for the past four years.

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Attention is already turning to the next manager, and Mauricio Pochettino’s name will sound the loudest. It’s easy to see why, because he’s the anti-Conte and anti-Mourinho in so many ways. Not especially in his football philosophy – but also that – but in his attitude towards the club.

The next Spurs manager doesn’t have to be Pochettino. But the next Spurs manager has to be someone who doesn’t actively despise the club. That in itself shuts out the entire Spurs fan base and therein lies the final major irony of Conte’s doomed reign. He was desperate to leave and saw no other way to go about it. He threw himself on two feet and slaughtered every single element of a football club he clearly loathes. And in that final moment, for the first and last time, he actually sounded like a Spurs fan.

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