Five Spurs players who’ll be (most) relieved to see the back of mood hoover in chief Antonio Conte
A very different challenge to compiling a list of five players who might rue Antonio Conte’s Spurs departure here. Whereas with that one we had to bulk the list up to five, here we’ve had to whittle it down from ‘pretty much all of them’.
We didn’t even find room for Richarlison in the end, but have managed to include a player who isn’t even at Spurs yet because we are nothing if not wilfully obtuse at times.
Anyway, there are lots of players who might hope to gain from Conte’s departure but these are maybe the lads with the most to gain…
Of all the players welcoming the news of Conte’s departure, Djed Spence surely sits at the top of the list. Currently impressing on loan with Rennes in France after being studiously ignored all season by Conte to make a petty political point and convince Levy to spend another £45m on another right-back in January.
Fingers crossed that Spurs might break with tradition and appoint a manager who actually tries to work with and improve any raw yet prodigiously talented youngsters there might be knocking around the place. I mean, the one time they tried that produced the best few years the club has had since the 1980s, but that was probably a fluke. Best go with another Chelsea sociopath, because that’s bound to work out soon, isn’t it? Law of averages, yeah? No.
While Spence was pretty much just ignored from the start by Conte, it was his treatment of a more high-profile summer signing that first indicated things were going wrong after the uplifting end to last season. (It is worth remembering that run-in, by the way. Things have gone awfully awry since, but Conte did get this squad humming for that short spell and then had a whole load of money lavished upon that squad before he drove it off a cliff.)
Bissouma has spent his short and inglorious Spurs career today being negged constantly by Conte for being unable to master the great man’s complicated gameplan of making the game as dull as possible and hoping Harry Kane does a goal. Yet we know from his Brighton days that Bissouma is without doubt a Proper Player, and absolutely someone who the right manager could upcycle into Like A New Signing territory next year.
Pape Matar Sarr
Hugely promising midfielder in need of a manager willing to give young players a chance in anything other than the most extreme moments of absolute necessity and in moulding young players into the best possible versions of themselves for long-term success. Ergo, Conte’s departure is great news.
Perhaps the single most valid criticism of Conte’s tactics this season – because his interminable sufferball has delivered often bafflingly acceptable results – is that the March collapse was brought on by exhaustion due to his near-total refusal to rotate players and shuffle his pack. With the result that when changes are made, they’re catastrophically wholesale ones leading to a team of near strangers who are all short of confidence, match sharpness or both who go and lose to Sheffield United.
More subtle use of the full depth of the squad earlier in the season might have avoided this scenario, and the performances of your Oliver Skipps and Pape Sarrs once Conte was left with quite literally no other option but to use them does rather suggest that it perhaps wasn’t entirely necessary to keep picking Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in every single game of football ever.
He’s not even arrived at Spurs yet, and is also a wing-back which might be a problem under the next manager, but the poor bastard must have been absolutely shitting it when it looked for a while like Conte might still be around next season to studiously ignore him while picking an exhausted and ancient Perisic every single week.
It’s possible that Son’s decline this season is a terminal one. It’s possible that a player propelled by joie de vivre has lost something that cannot be restored. It’s also possible that he’s had that joy sucked out of him by the Italian mood hoover grumping about the place and making life miserable, and also that trying to turn one of the Premier League’s most adept and dangerous runners from deep into a back-to-goal safety first shadow of his former self was also an error.
At least a new manager means he and we might found out once and for all.
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