Tottenham Hotspur head coach Antonio Conte held his weekly press conference ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against West Ham, but things got a little spicy when the subject turned to Spurs’ north London rivals. Asked about manager Mikel Arteta’s recent comments complaining about Arsenal’s upcoming fixture calendar, specifically the run of tough fixtures coming up for the Gunners, Conte clapped back.
Yesterday, Arteta complained about Arsenal’s fixture schedule, calling it “unfair” that they had to play against Aston Villa in the Saturday early match so close on the heels of Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool.
Thank you so much to the Premier League for doing that. And they’ve done it again when we have to play Chelsea and Manchester United. So if they want to give them any advantage, I say to them today: ‘Thank you so much for doing that’.
‘It is always it’s BT, it’s Sky, it is this, it’s that. But the one that is affected is Arsenal and the only thing that I care [about] and we care [about] is Arsenal. And for Arsenal it is not fair.’
When asked, Conte reminded the room that Arteta shadily managed to get last February’s North London Derby postponed with one positive COVID test at a time when Arsenal were suffering through an injury crisis.
“Yeah but I only want [Mikel] Arteta to remember the game [was] postponed. Tottenham - Arsenal okay? If we speak about unfair. I stop.
“But In general, I think my answer is enough. Okay, yeah, it’s enough. If someone wants to speak about fair or unfair. We postponed the game, Tottenham-Arsenal, if you remember. I don’t. I don’t forget this, and I think that it’s not right to speak about fair or unfair.”
Spicy! It’s also worth noting that Spurs had a similarly compressed schedule, playing Leeds three days after the loss at Burnley. This is what managers do — it’s not at all uncommon for them to complain about fixtures and recovery time, but it’s kind of fun to see Conte finally get into the spirit of the North London Derby (which has yet to be rescheduled).
Elsewhere, just after the club announced that Japhet Tanganga would be out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery, Conte dropped what is hopefully encouraging news about Oliver Skipp, saying that he hopes to have the midfielder back after the upcoming international break, but that Ryan Sessegnon will miss at minimum another month.
“Skipp is another situation. For [Tanganga], the medical department tried until the end to find the solution but I think in the end it was the best solution for Japh and the doctors to have this surgery to clean his knee. He’ll be ready next season. About Skippy, I hope to have him after the international break. His pain is getting better and better. About [Sessegnon], we’re waiting four weeks to have another scan and then if everything is OK he’ll restart training sessions with us.
“It’s difficult to answer now [when Skipp will return]. We’ll have two weeks to see this improvement and make him ready for the game against Newcastle. I know the player’s frustration because we’re talking also about a really good guy. He’s a top guy, a top man. To see him very disappointed and very sad for this situation, but he has to be strong because we believe in him and we are waiting for him.”
Conte was also asked about Cristian Romero, who picked up another yellow card in Spurs’ win over Brighton for a reckless challenge, something that’s been a bit of a theme with him lately. Conte said that he’s working to try and tamp down some of Cuti’s more... zealous impulses.
“Cristian is a player who has to be focused in every moment of the game. If he’s good, he’s good to be focused from the start, from the first second to the last second of the game. He is a really important player for us. I think he has a bit to improve in this situation, to be focused in every moment of the game.
“Sometimes he takes a yellow card that he can avoid. I think that he has to improve in his aspect, to be focused from the start until the end. Sometimes you can’t explain this to him in a good manner. Sometimes you have to shout! (Laughs) But he’s a good guy and he understands very well that what I do is always best for the team and for the best for the player to improve himself, because I think he has great quality to become a top defender so when I think this it’s important to find the right way to improve the player.”
Tottenham kick off against West Ham on Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. BST at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.