Tottenham braced for pivotal week that could decide Antonio Conte future after Chelsea setback

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 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

It’s a week with no games, but could well be the most important of Antonio Conte’s entire time at Tottenham Hotspur.

It will certainly tell him a lot about what is possible at the club. It may even decide his future, as well as the Champions League race. This is what so much comes down to.

In order to do the business Conte feels he needs, Spurs must off-load players. They are, specifically, the attacking midfielders Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso. Conte has grown weary of the Argentinian midfielder’s efforts too. He’s good but just doesn’t follow instructions to the level required.

If Spurs can get rid of all three, they may well do all of the business Conte wants. That is at least a wing-back, namely Adama Traore, and two midfielders.

Franck Kessie is a big target, and AC Milan would do business due to the fact he is in the last six months of his contract. It is for that same reason, however, the player himself wants to wait. Paris Saint-Germain might be willing to take Ndombele, but that depends on one of Gini Wijnaldum or Leandro Paredes accepting a loan deal in the other direction. Neither have yet been that keen, but that can change.

Head in the game: Conte has to deal with incomings and outgoings (Reuters)
Head in the game: Conte has to deal with incomings and outgoings (Reuters)

There are a lot of spinning plates here, partly because Spurs won’t just put money on the table. This will be a test of whether they can do deals despite that.

One issue that Mauricio Pochettino had when trying to offload players was the club insisting on full value, even when there were few takers. That ended up being a false economy, though, as it meant no one actually left and it made the team stale.

Spurs are still suffering the effects of that, almost half a decade on. This is one of a few reasons Conte feels the squad badly needs freshening up.

Tottenham went down at Chelsea for their fourth loss of the season to their London rivals (EPA)
Tottenham went down at Chelsea for their fourth loss of the season to their London rivals (EPA)

Another is that he knows Spurs cannot afford any waste whatsoever. Every part of the team must be fully firing if they are to bridge the gap to, and overtake, the new “big four”.

It did feel a significant and symbolic weekend in the Champions League chase in that regard, to go with yet another Spurs defeat to Chelsea. Manchester United got back into the top four for the first time since October, despite again looking patchy. Ultimately, they just had too much talent for West Ham United.

It may sound simplistic but it remains the biggest factor in this. Not even managers like Conte, or Pochettino, can outmanoeuvre resources for long. Managerial alchemy can only go so far. The table tends to conform to wage bills more than anything else.

This is what Conte really meant after the defeat to Chelsea when he said “at the moment, this club are on another level”. The gap remains too big.

Tottenham are keen on Adama Traore (PA)
Tottenham are keen on Adama Traore (PA)

Put bluntly, Spurs and Arsenal can both overtake Manchester United by winning their games in hand but it's just difficult to see them consistently winning enough for that to be the case by the end of the season. Both of the north London clubs would have to stretch their current teams so far. It is why Arsenal have been trying to bring in Dusan Vlahovic and why Conte wants to make so many changes to Spurs.

They need to offer something different, to electrically charge their teams. Otherwise, even if the managers are having maximum possible effect, it is still the maximum effect of a lesser group of players. Look at it like this. All of their attackers must be firing all the time. At United, even if the team is again unconvincing, they can just bring in another attacking talent. The options are remarkable.

That is why this week might be so important, for all kinds of reasons. There is a window for Spurs, which Conte is all too aware of. This weekend saw it close that little bit more, though. This week will show the manager whether it can actually be smashed.

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