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Guardian: Players think Conte is heading for the exit

Spoiler: Publicly humiliating your players will have consequences.

Southampton FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

There’s a ticking time bomb in north London, and it’s in the office of Antonio Conte at Hotspur Way. The only question remaining is whether it detonates now or at the end of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur are in turmoil thanks to the manager’s temper tantrum after the 3-3 draw against last place Southampton on Saturday. Conte, in one of the more insane post-match tirades that would make late NFL coach Dennis Green say “Calm down, sir,” publicly threw just about everyone at the club under the bus except himself. Reporters such as Alasdair Gold and Jack Pitt-Brooke have gone as far as to say they’ve never seen anything quite like it. Now, David Hytner says what we’ve all assumed: Conte’s gone. It’s just a matter of when.

Tottenham’s players believe that Antonio Conte is “going or gone”, according to a dressing-room source, with their only question about the manager’s future concerning the timing of his departure.

Conte is widely expected to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season, although it is understood that some of the players would welcome him going immediately. There are serious doubts over whether enough of them are still behind him.

We all know Conte is unhappy and the players are upset because they’re now out of every cup competition and the only thing left to fight for is Champions League football next season. Dropping points to a side that is the favorite to be relegated isn’t going to help that case, especially when the two United clubs have matches in hand and refuse to lose when it matters.

So the question of when to pull the trigger falls to Daniel Levy, who doesn’t exactly have the trust of supporters either. Levy might believe he’s in a no-win situation because it’s either you sack him now or wait until the end of the season when his contract runs out. Sacking Conte will result in a buy-out, though it’ll only be for about three months of salary. That amount is around £4m if Levy sacks him during the international break. Levy’s conundrum is who does he put in charge for the stretch run of ten matches that will determine if Spurs play in the Champions League or Europa League next season. Ryan Mason has done the job before with some mixed results, but he at least has experience as the caretaker and is probably the logical choice.

The other side of the coin is that Levy just had his manager, the person in charge of ensuring results on the pitch, publicly nuked the club from orbit. While what he’s said wasn’t wrong (covered in detail yesterday by Dustin), it is egregious to have that come from inside the house and there’s no public statement, apology or punishment, handed out as a result.

If the players are upset, and they have every right to be after the tantrum, the decision here is simple: Cut your losses, hand the job to Mason, and start your search for a new manager now. There will be options out there, and to wait is only going to cause more problems.

Rip the band-aid off, send him packing, and try to salvage the rest of the season as best as you can.