Rio Ferdinand has hailed one consistently-improving Tottenham star as one of the first names on Antonio Conte’s team sheet – but the pundit has a strong warning about the playing style being adopted by the Italian.
Spurs are through to the last 16 of the Champions League on a night of high tension in Group D. Their last-gasp 2-1 win at Marseille was enough to sent Tottenham through as group winners. But after trailing at half-time, Spurs found themselves down in third and heading for the Europa League.
Clement Lenglet’s equaliser moved back up to second, but with Marseille needing a win, chances came and went for both sides. Indeed, former Arsenal man Sead Kolasinac missed a simple header to put OM back ahead with minutes on the clock.
As it was, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was able to latch on to a pass at the other end and rifle a stunning shot in off the post. The Dane had earlier struck the crossbar with a venomous drive.
The goal sparked wild celebrations for Spurs, who had put up a seriously lame display in the first half.
The mood in the Spurs dressing room was summed up by assistant manager, Cristian Stellini, who was stepping in for the banned Conte.
And after the game, Ferdinand talked up Hojbjerg for his excellent winner.
“And Hojbjerg, who hit the crossbar earlier in the game, this is a phenomenal strike. The defender actually does quite well, does as much as he can pushing him away from goal,” he told BT Sport.
Reports earlier this week claim Spurs are looking to offer Hojbjerg an extension after an excellent run of form this season. He has become one of the first names on Conte’s team sheet following a string of sublime displays.
Antonio Conte told playing style is not good enough for Spurs
Another pundit, Noel Whelan, also reckons the star is worthy of a new contract.
“He does (deserve a new deal). I was a little bit bemused when he came in from Southampton, but he’s really proved everyone wrong,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“He’s a very good central midfield player. He’s got better and better, and he is now one of the first names on the team-sheet.
“This news doesn’t surprise me because if you let him run down his contract and leave, with the performances he’s put in – you’re probably talking about £60million to bring in a similar player.
“It makes a lot of sense to keep him around and hope he can keep improving as he enters his prime.”
However, it is not all a bed of roses for Conte. To that end, Peter Crouch is warning the Italian that his brand of football will not be tolerated if there is nothing meaningful to show at the end of the season.
Telling the Italian the ugly truths, Crouch told BT Sport: “The brand of football – if he doesn’t deliver on trophies, I think the Tottenham fans aren’t gonna tolerate the football that’s being played at the moment because it’s difficult to watch.
“It has been difficult to watch, and unless there’s a trophy at the end of it i don’t think they’re gonna tolerate it.”
Conte boasts an excellent record for Tottenham
In his year at Tottenham, Conte’s record, that said, is really rather good.
In 54 games in charge, he has won 31 and only lost 14, while scoring 104 to 56 conceded. To be fair, they are also the kings at claiming points from a losing position as this article reveals.
And returning to the Champions League was a real accomplishment for Conte and Spurs.
However, the brand of football he is playing has left plenty of doubts in supporters’ minds.
That is also a point picked up by Ferdinand. And he reckons fans will have to choose between playing style and success under the Italian.
“What d’you want? Do you want success and maybe take a little bit away from the playing style? Or do you want to go back to playing good football and you maybe not win much?
“I think that’s the question you’ve got to ask the fans. But if you’re looking at it as a player, I think it’s gotta be frustrating, the way they’re playing.”
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