Champions League Hopes Over? Conte’s Struggles at Spurs

Tottenham suffered a third straight Premier League defeat on Sunday as they lost 2-0 at home to Wolves. Their recent form has even led to Antonio Conte himself questioning whether his Spurs side are capable of finishing in a UEFA Champions League spot this season. Now sitting in eighth and five points behind West Ham in fourth, Conte is starting to feel the pressure once more.

A little under a month ago, things seemed bright for Spurs under their new man, despite them suffering three defeats to Chelsea in a month. Conte’s first nine Premier League matches were all victorious, as a shift in mentality seemed to have occurred in North London. Nonetheless, in typical Spurs style, things look bleak once again, suffering three straight league defeats, including two home losses against Southampton and Wolves respectively.

Of course, the process is still in place and it will take time for his players to really establish that winning mentality he desires. Conte is not blinded by unrealistic goals and he knows that there is a long way to go yet to instate a true overhaul at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Wolves Errors

However, their last defeat against Wolves is a cause for concern. Spurs were sloppy in defeat and went behind after just six minutes following some truly amateur-like goalkeeping by Hugo Lloris. Sloppiness filtered throughout the rest of the side as shortly after, Lloris played a hospital pass out to Ben Davies, who then proceeded to misplace his pass that allowed Wolves in on the attack. The comedic series of events led to Wolves doubling their lead. The errors continued as the game progressed and Spurs will feel lucky that Bruno Lage’s side did not inflict a heavier defeat.

Offensively, Spurs did not perform too badly and did improve as the game went on. However, Wolves ‘keeper Jose Sa was rarely troubled and Spurs’ best chances came from a long range effort by Harry Winks that struck the post and a half volley by new signing Dejan Kulusevski that was dragged wide. Regardless of the number of chances his side created, Conte will know that the utterly shambolic defending in the opening quarter of the game is intolerable and Spurs will continue to be punished if they keep on making calamitous errors.

Alarms will also be raised in light of Spurs’ North London rivals picking up an impressive 1-0 win away to Wolves during the middle of last week. Arsenal dug in and secured a scrappy away win, whilst also being reduced to 10 men with just over 20 minutes remaining. The Spurs faithful will be bitterly envious about the Gunners’ newly found defensive resilience – the complete opposite to their own recent performances.

Serie A New Boys

Tottenham did invest during the January transfer market and, as expected, looked to Serie A for some new faces. This brought about the signings of Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski from Juventus. Nonetheless, the squad now seems relatively thin, with Tanguy Ndombele, Dele Alli, Giovanni Lo Celso and Bryan Gil all departing the club. It may just be a coincidence but since the two new men arrived from Turin, Spurs have suffered two home defeats which has left the new signings already lined up to be the next scapegoats at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The general consensus surrounding the signings, especially from an Italian point of view, is that Juve have pulled off a masterstroke by selling the two players for roughly €70 million – the same fee they paid for Dusan Vlahovic. Managing Director of Football Fabio Paratici has been criticized for his recruitment since he joined Spurs from Juventus and his reputation is declining, especially if the signings of Bentancur and Kulusevski are a failure.

What’s Next for Spurs?

Sandwiched between their Premier League defeats, Conte was still able to put Spurs into the next round of the FA Cup after a 3-1 victory at home to Brighton. They face Middlesbrough away on the 1st March in the fifth round as Conte will be in the hunt for silverware to end Tottenham’s 12 year trophy drought, with their last trophy being the Carling Cup in 2008. The clash against Boro won’t be a walk in the park as the Teesiders knocked out Manchester United at Old Trafford on penalties in the fourth round.

Looking towards the Premier League, Spurs face a huge task up next in Manchester as they try and tackle Pep Guardiola and City at the Etihad. The significance of the defeats against Southampton and Wolves could prove to be even more evident as six points was to be expected, especially in light of their remaining fixtures. Spurs also face fellow top four candidates West Ham and Manchester United in March which is set to be a huge month for Conte and the outcome of Spurs’ season.

Paratici will be hoping his new signings are able to hit form soon, if not the pressure will be on him as his recruitment strategy continues to be questioned. Of course, let’s still take into account that time is needed for players to settle over in England, with the pace and intensity being vastly different to that in Italy.

However, how much patience will Chairman Daniel Levy have? Conte will not continue if he is not supported and may exit Spurs before it becomes a sinking ship. Either way, it will be an interesting end to the season for the future of both Spurs and Conte.