Pressure on Antonio Conte increased as Tottenham collapse alarmingly against Manchester City

Pressure on Antonio Conte increased as Tottenham collapse alarmingly against Manchester City

A familiar Tottenham performance, only this time in reverse.

Spurs squandered a 2-0 half-time lead to go down 4-2 at Manchester City, increasing the pressure on Antonio Conte.

In fairness to the head coach, his game-plan and his side’s execution of it was spot on in an encouraging opening 45 minutes -- Spurs’ best first-half for months -- and the visitors capitalised on City’s sloppiness to score twice in 129 seconds through Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal before the whistle.

But Spurs crumbled alarmingly in the second half, and effectively gifted City four goals through Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland and a double from the brilliant Riyad Mahrez.

The performance raised alarming questions about Spurs’ mentality, particularly faced with big-six rivals, as well as their defensive quality.

Plainly, if Conte is to save their season, he must address both -- and fast, with in-form Fulham awaiting on Monday night.

On the plus side, the way Conte’s side counter-attacked at times was a reminder that there is life in this team yet, and the return of Rodrigo Bentancur was significant. But too many of his players are woefully off form, including Heung-min Son, who was a passenger again.

Perisic horrorshow proves costly

Conte’s decision to start Ryan Sessegnon ahead of Ivan Perisic in Sunday’s north London derby defeat raised eyebrows but did not look so strange after a costly performance from the Croatian at the Etihad.

Perisic lost out to Mahrez for City’s first three goals and was particularly weak for the first and the Algerian’s fierce third.

It was, frankly, an alarming performance which raised questions about the durability of the Croatian, who is about to turn 34, at this level.

Perisic’s tired showing will particularly concern Conte because he was widely considered to be the only really elite wing-back on Spurs’ books, yet here he was a liability rather than an asset.

Ivan Perisic had a miserable time against Riyad Mahrez (REUTERS)
Ivan Perisic had a miserable time against Riyad Mahrez (REUTERS)

Son and Lloris disappoint again

There must also now be serious questions about the position of two of Spurs undroppables, Son and Hugo Lloris following another difficult night for the pair.

Lloris lunged off his line for Alvarez’s goal and was beaten at his near post for Mahrez’s first, admittedly after the effort took a slight deflection on the way through.

Lloris has already made damaging mistakes leading to the opening goal against Aston Villa and Arsenal since the Premier League restart, and the 36-year-old increasingly feels like a liability at this level.

Perhaps he simply needs more time to recover from losing the World Cup final and retiring from international football but, whatever the reality, there is a case for Conte taking him out of the firing line at Craven Cottage on Monday.

Son was also below-par again in another hesitant, ineffective display. Conte is reluctant to drop or even substitute the South Korean (perhaps a reflection of the options on his bench), apparently in the hope that he can be played into some form.

But Son was struggled for the entire season and it is surely time for a front three of Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison.