MATT BARLOW: It may be best to put Conte out of his misery now

MATT BARLOW: It might be better for Tottenham to ask Antonio Conte to clear his desk and quickly find a successor, or complete the season with an interim manager… he was NEVER a natural fit

  • Antonio Conte is clinging onto his job after Tottenham’s Champions League exit
  • It may be best for Spurs and Conte to part ways now rather than waiting
  • Conte was brought in to win trophies but was never the natural fit for the club

The last thread keeping Antonio Conte tied to Tottenham is the one weaving him into the narrative as the best man to clinch their place in the top four.

Spurs are a team built for his 3-4-3 system and without the distractions of those pesky cup competitions, Conte can knuckle down on tactical sessions through the week to summon a strong finish. 

Qualify once again for the Champions League and they can all pretend the appointment was a success before going their separate ways at the end of his contract.

A dozen fixtures remain and the run-in is not too daunting, although it requires nine wins to beat last season’s total of 71 points.

Pull at the thread, however, and the logic starts to unravel. Tottenham are some distance from such an emphatic run of form. This month they have played three times without scoring, crashed out of two competitions and the first murmurs of dissent are filtering out from the camp.

Antonio Conte’s time at Spurs looks to be coming to an end after their Champions League exit

Richarlison criticised the Italian coach and his tactics following Tottenham’s elimination

Harry Kane admitted morale is low in the Tottenham squad following their recent results

After Wednesday’s Champions League exit to AC Milan, Richarlison criticised the decision to leave him out. ‘There hasn’t been enough minutes given to me,’ said the Brazilian. ‘This season, forgive my language, has been s***.’

Harry Kane, who spent the first hour of last week’s FA Cup loss at Sheffield United on the bench, said it ‘put a dagger in our hearts and we never really recovered’.

If he survives until Nottingham Forest on Saturday, we will find out if Conte can still motivate his players and if they still want to play for him.

The 53-year-old Italian is obsessed by hard work and fuelled by pride. When he was on his way out of Chelsea, he drove on to win the FA Cup in his last match and then took them through the courts to win a case for unfair dismissal.

But there are health issues now, after missing five games while recovering from surgery to remove his gallbladder.

Asked about his future by an Italian broadcaster after the Milan game, Conte replied: ‘We will see, they might sack me even before the end of the season, who knows, maybe they are disappointed.’

Wishful thinking, maybe. His time at Tottenham is coming to an end and there is a school of thought that it might be better to ask him to clear his desk and quickly find a successor, or complete the season with an interim manager.

Chairman Daniel Levy will make the call in a climate of instability, with Kane’s contract soon running into its final year and recruitment guru Fabio Paratici fighting to clear his name after a financial scandal from his time at Juventus.

Spurs fans sang the name of Mauricio Pochettino on Wednesday, recalling how, despite failing to win anything under him, at least the football was decent.

This season’s fare has been dull, as Conte has offset deficiencies at the back by packing in protection elsewhere at the cost of creativity, especially since being without Rodrigo Bentancur in midfield.

The home crowd jeered when he sent on defender Davinson Sanchez to replace winger Dejan Kulusevski against Milan, patching up after Cristian Romero’s red card and leaving attackers Arnaut Danjuma and Lucas Moura on the bench.

Conte is an excellent manager and it was a coup to land him. He hauled them back into the Champions League, but they could not match his relentless demands for the players he believes are necessary to compete for big prizes.

Daniel Levy must decide whether to sack Conte now or wait until the end of the season

Like predecessor Jose Mourinho, he was always yearning for more. He was never a natural fit for Spurs. But what is to say Pochettino will be any different since working with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi in Paris and flirting with Manchester United and Real Madrid?

He will not be the same man who arrived from Southampton nine years ago and transformed the place. He was not that man by the time he was sacked six months after the Champions League final.

Pochettino is charismatic and likeable. But even as they sang his name at Seven Sisters station, there were dissenting voices.

Perhaps they fear another spin of Levy’s wheel of misfortune, taking them back to 2019, caught up in the myth that a flash managerial appointment is the solution to all their problems.

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