Antonio Conte leaves the inveitable circus called Tottenham

Antonio Conte did his best to raise the levels, but Tottenham are the inevitable force that will go crawling back into their comfort zone.

North London has been the talking point of this Premier League season. We have a fanbase that believes Mikel Arteta can walk on water, while Spurs fans watched their manager walk across towards the unknown. With Antonio Conte sacked, Tottenham will wonder what hit them over the last 16-18 months.

Wasn’t Conte here to shift the tectonic plates of north London dominance for good and snatch power from the Red side of town? The first six months of his reign surely pointed towards that shift. But the latter part has seen Tottenham regress in their approach towards supremacy.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s ill-fated reign had one moment of brilliance; the Manchester City win on the opening day of last season. Beyond that, the Portuguese tactician felt beleaguered and constantly under pressure to deliver results, which did not happen.

Before him, it was Jose Mourinho, another coach who virtually guaranteed trophies Spurs were desperate for. He, too, failed to deliver, and one might wonder why Conte has also withdrawn from this race to win something at the club, which does not have any shortage of potential.

In truth, Conte’s appointment did not seem like a happy marriage between him and chairman Daniel Levy. The Italian had earlier rejected an approach and may have only taken the job five months later to possibly make a comeback in English football.

Tottenham needed an Antonio Conte

Since the 2018/19 season, Tottenham have not had a manager for a full campaign. If we include Ryan Mason’s interim role, they have had four managers until now. But Spurs still seem to have not gotten out of the zone Mauricio Pochettino left them in.

Despite having reservations about taking up the role, Conte agreed to become their manager midway through last season. For Spurs fans, it was a moment of euphoria as they could not believe someone like the Italian, who guarantees trophies, would sit in their dugout.

Optimism turned to promise as Conte steered Tottenham to a difficult top-four finish. The bonus was their entry into the Champions League at the expense of Arsenal. The media then painted Spurs under the Italian as probable title challengers. There is some degree of truth owing to their astute summer business, which now looks silly from many angles.

Spurs have been traditionally known as the team that bottles in the big moment. Despite concerted efforts, they have not broken the top order in the Premier League. All they needed was to get fit, hungry and organised again, to which Conte was the answer.

The team functioned like a unit in making it into those top four places last season. Tottenham played attractive football, were defensively sound and scored plenty of goals. Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and the wing-backs were getting in on the act plenty to make them look like challenger material.

They continued that streak into the new season, their best start to a Premier League campaign ever. In fact, despite all the bitterness surrounding Conte’s departure, the Italian leaves them in a better place than he found them 16 months ago.

Yet, everything fell apart steadily as the season progressed. Despite the heavy investment in the playing squad. That is because things have not worked in more ways than imaginable for the club. Considering the early promise on the pitch, it is quite frustrating it came to nothing in the end.

So what went wrong for Conte?

Intense training methods, fitness regime and ruthlessness that come from a winner is what Conte is all about. Spurs players probably were not all aware of how to deal with the Italian but had responded positively in the early days.

While Conte and Tottenham never seemed like a perfect match, they did try their best to make things work. The manager was on it right from the start, as he started being critical of player fitness, food habits and the need to change their playing mentality.

Those things often appear in the media when the internal messaging system fails. The latest outburst in the St. Mary’s media room may have been the ultimate one. But Conte has had many mini-bursts at various stages during his tenure.

While inheriting a team that went nowhere, Conte may have imposed his personality on this side to drive them towards instant success. What looked like thorough acceleration by stepping onto the gas pedal, the players have run out of steam at a critical time in the race.

The team is not equipped to deal with Conte’s method for longer and have found a way to return to their maligned comfort zone. It’s also why many feel a player like Kane may have wasted his years at the top of this club.

Many media outlets have pointed towards players getting fed up with repetitive training methods and restrictive tactics. But that is the need of the hour for team building for the future. Some suggestions point towards the mood being even more abject than in the last days of Mourinho.

Despite Conte’s bringing winning formulas to the training ground, his players were afraid to respond. The fans were also fed with negativity, largely from the media, who have stuck with the notion that Spurs play unattractive football.

All this for a club crying out for leadership and direction. Conte got shown the door when he came up with an actual plan and their best route in a generation, albeit much of it was his own doing in more ways than one. Tottenham can now return to their comfort zone and wait for the next entertaining disaster to take shape.

What now for Tottenham?

Manchester United are a prime example in recent many years of managerial changes. While many would argue United were stuck in limbo until the arrival of Ten Hag, the Spurs have been in a similar situation for decades.

The meaningless League Cup win in 2008 aside, the north Londoners must have a larger ambition. Pochettino seemed like a charmer for many years until he left without winning a single accolade. znd the same goes for the next three managers.

Conte was probably their best chance to win something in a generation, and now he has gone too. The Italian’s exit reflects badly on everyone involved, right from the players, Levy, Joe Lewis and the fans. They have already touted plans to replace Conte with other star names, but that’s not enough.

Tottenham fans will surely go into another euphoric moment if Julian Nagelsmann or Luis Enrique takes charge. The club, however, must address the larger issue. Conte rightly pointed towards those. Instead of criticising the Italian for bursting out, the club must take those problems and find solutions.

Without a change in the club’s mentality, managerial targets like Nagelsmann, Enrique or even a Pochettino cannot do much here. Tottenham are a disarrayed club and delusions about their stature in the English game. A new stadium, posh facilities, or even throwing big money at the best players cannot bring the mentality required to harness the power. Spurs lack that aspect plenty and need to find answers.

For what’s to come, Spurs may find themselves out of the English elite and into one of Europe’s second or third-tier tournaments next season. Their drastic change in mentality and their ability for consistency are the only ways to enter the elite sphere again.

For now, they will return to their comfort zone of mediocrity one more, but a route back to becoming challengers is not too far away either. The right manager with the correct mentality from the team will take them places. But it all depends on how they will proceed. Conte is gone, but who’s next?

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