If you’ve gotten a little bit of emotional whiplash watching Spurs over the past few weeks, you’re not alone. Spurs have gone from the lowest of lows (after the North London Derby loss) to some pretty amazing highs (a win over Manchester City) to another crater (a 4-1 away loss to Leicester City). It’s that inconsistency that’s been the most maddening.
Now with Spurs at the San Siro ahead of a Champions League Round of 16 tie against AC Milan, Antonio Conte was asked about his team’s inconsistency this season, especially after Tottenham showed so much promise at this point last season.
“Unfortunately this is the truth, it’s like you say. Last year we had consistency in the last 14 games, we won 10 out of 14 and then to get in the Champions League we did something that was unexpected, it was incredible considering the situation we had. Considering the number of players, we just had 13 available last year. This year we resumed in the same way and then injuries started, especially in attack, with Lucas Moura, Kulusevski, so the situation got complicated. It was like a rollercoaster. One time you were up and then all of a sudden you were down. If you want to be competitive, if you are aiming for something important you need stability.
“You need stability, you need consistency, you can’t have these ups and downs. I am trying to work on this and focusing on not having ups and downs. England is not like Italy, the Premier League is not like Serie A, we have different cultures in these two leagues. In England it is much more difficult to be focused and stay focused for every game. In Italy it is easier.
“I am trying to work on this, I want my team to be more focused. When you have ups and down, which is what is happening to us, then obviously it is a bit thing. We need to look for more stability. This year many times we needed to be happy with what we had. This last period it is happening again but we need to react and be stronger.”
Spurs are, without question, banged up. It’s incredible to say that considering the club was entirely healthy just nine days ago, but with Hugo Lloris, Ryan Sessegnon, Yves Bissouma, and Rodrigo Bentancur now all on the long-term injury list and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg suspended for this match, Conte confirmed that he would be turning towards his bench in central midfield. The gaffer was asked first by a reporter whether he had considered moving Eric Dier back into the middle of the pitch, but Conte confirmed that he will be starting both Oliver Skipp and Pape Matar Sarr tomorrow.
“For sure we did not have the time to take into consideration [Dier as a midfielder]. Rodrigo had an injury two days ago and for this reason to take also another option, to think of another option… the time was so short to prepare this game that I did not think of another solution.
“We have the solution in our house, with the two young players, Skippy and Pape Sarr. You know we are talking about two young players, their first game in Champions League, they are really young - 20 and 22-years-old. Especially for this reason we have to be good to help them to overcome the emotion, and then we trust them.
“In the future we will see because you said the truth. To stay for a long period with only three midfielders, to play Premier League and Champions League and also FA Cup will be really difficult. At the same time we have to not have another injury. Otherwise we are in trouble.
“But we want to use this period to become stronger, to face this difficulty in the right way. We know tomorrow for sure there will be moments when we have to suffer, but we have to suffer together and overcome this difficulty together.”
Morale has obviously taken a significant hit thanks to the events of the past week, but Conte said that he and the rest of the team is working on identifying how to improve immediately with all the changes.
“I think we will get this answer tomorrow, it will be much easier finding the right answer tomorrow. Trying to forecast the future today is impossible. I think we are lacking that stability, it is always crucial. If you want to win or achieve some targets and have a good position in the Champions League or in England in the Premier League you have to be stable. And this stability is lacking this year. I always talk about it with my players. It is very difficult to keep concentration, it is very difficult to stay focused all of the time. I made a comparison before English football and Italian football. It is not an easy task being so focused.
“We are working on that, playing under pressure all of the time is good for some players and bad for others. Sometimes players feel motivated other times feel so much under pressure that they can’t perform. Maybe for a period they have a good performance and then they collapse all of a sudden if they feel too much pressure. We are working on this, we want to make our players more resilient but there are also external factors like injuries for very important players for us, and those injuries influence the team, influence the growing evolution of the Championship.
“You can be prepared for everything, you can be a tactical man, good strategies, good line-ups, you can have high quality players but then if those high quality players get injured then you need to change things. Every manager wishes to have the best players available.”
Spurs kick off against AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. (USA) / 8:00 p.m. (UK). The match is televised on BT Sport 1 in the UK and streamed on Paramount+ in USA.