Tottenham Hotspur Interim Head Coach Cristian Stellini addressed the media for the first time on Friday since the departure of Antonio Conte on Sunday. Stellini, formerly Conte’s top assistant, spoke at length to reporters about taking the job, his and the teams’ mentality, and what changes Spurs fans might expect with him in charge.
Stellini opened by reinforcing that there is no rift between Conte and himself over his taking the interim position, and that everyone is on good terms.
“I want to clarify that this decision was taken for the best of the club and from everyone, so the decision was taken from everyone. Antonio is good, so everyone take the decision all together for best of the club and my relationship with Antonio is still the same and is very close. Nothing change between me and him. I have to say thanks to him also because I improve a lot in my career like until now and why I improve is because of Antonio. Antonio for me is important and I do the best for him until now. And I do the best for him from now until the end of the season.
“It is an important job. I feel responsible and I take the responsibility but I have to say that I am ready to do it and I feel that I can do it. I was here before and we have to follow the process and the job we did in the past.”
Stellini said that the decision to offer him the position of Interim Head Coach was agreed upon by both Conte and club officials, and that he and Conte had discussed the matter prior to the job being offered.
“I spoke with Antonio and Antonio and the club spoke to each other. They made the decision together and they let me know. I was aware of this during this time and they called me. And they said the decision is taken and if you agree with us you can do it. I had no problem to say yes and because everyone agreed it was a mutual decision. When they called me they said if you can agree we can do it and we all agree on it with Antonio.”
Stellini gave an update on the team’s injury situation, noting in particular that Hugo Lloris has returned to full training and is available for selection, though he declined to say whether he would start in goal against Everton. Notably, Ivan Perisic is also available for selection; Stellini implied that Ivan’s injury in the recent Croatia international match was a knock and that he’s not seriously injured. Stellini also said that Ryan Sessegnon and Ben Davies are both close to returns to the squad but are not quite there yet and would not play against Everton, and that Richarlison has not yet returned to training.
“The players who are unavailable are players like Emerson, who had surgery, Bissouma is not ready to play, Bentancur obviously not for the season able to play. We have Richarlison with problem, he’s not training with team. Ben Davies and Sessegnon are pushing to recover, they are not ready but pushing to recover as soon as possible.”
When asked about whether he was planning on making any changes to the way the team plays now that he is in full charge of the club, Stellini did suggest that he and assistant head coach Ryan Mason are considering some tactical tweaks. However, he also implied that fans should not expect any dramatic changes to the formation or tactics, especially in such a short period of time and with a critical stretch of matches coming up. But Stellini stopped short of any specifics, only noting that changes may happen, both in the initial match setup and according to match situations that may occur.
“I have to be myself. Like I said when I was in charge with Antonio in the time when he had the surgery. I use myself, my character and behaviour to manage the team. We will see what happens during the process. We have not had many days to work with the team. We only started this morning top have the whole team together. We had a good session in training and we prepare the next game following what we did in the past but also in the past I have to be honest, and we prepared some changes tactically so we can do it. We are following what we did.
“...If you think that we draw in Southampton and some results in the last month was not good obviously the fans were not happy and that is normal but we can not say this about all the season because there are many matches where the fans enjoyed a lot and there were with us and it’s important that we bring the fans with us.
“...We have some injuries and we have to be careful with the decisions and I mentioned before that we prepared some changes in the past and we were working on that and we want to continue working on that, not only in one way but sometimes to change some details in the game.
Thinking of the opponent we have to face and we want to continue on that, we need all the players ready to play that game and at this particular moment we don’t have many wing-backs ready to play so we have to be aware of that and not make a wrong decision.
Tottenham travel to Liverpool to face Everton on Monday, April 3. Kickoff time is 3:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. BST.