Conte: Impossible for Tottenham to qualify for top-four

Spurs boss rules out Champions League football after calamitous defending gifts Wolves 2-0 win

Monday, 14th February — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

spurs stadium white hart lane

Premier League

WOLVES 2 (Jimenez 6, Dendoncker 18)

ANTONIO Conte has questioned Tottenham’s chances of finishing in the top-four of the Premier League, warning it will be “impossible” based on what he has seen in recent results.

An embarrassing combination of calamitous defending and poor goalkeeping by Hugo Lloris saw Spurs gift Wolves the goals they needed to win 2-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this afternoon (Sunday).

Having seen his side lose 3-2 at home to Southampton in midweek, Conte now believes he’s seen enough to rule out Champions League football next season. “When you lose two games at home – for a team that wants to qualify for the Champions League, it’s impossible to happen,” said the Tottenham boss.

“We know we have to fight to build something important with the situation but it’s important to know the situation. Maybe our fans shouldn’t be disappointed with the defeat – instead they should try and push us and stay behind us.

“The players need to find the right atmosphere and feel no pressure about a target that in this moment you can’t reach. I’ve been saying this since my arrival.”

A comedy of defensive errors meant Spurs yet again threw away the chance to drag themselves up the league – and the manner in which Wolves earned three points only underlines how far off Conte’s side is from launching anything like a title challenge.

Wolves scored two first-half goals after some Sunday league defending – and as Tottenham tried to find their way back into the game, they were hampered by misplaced passes, poor runs and a general malaise.

The visitors deserved the win – and simply were required to sit back and watch Spurs beat themselves.

Conte tried to add balance to the defeat, pointing out that Wolves had the second stingiest defence in the league. He added: “It was a difficult day because we conceded two goals after only maybe 15 minutes.

“The performance was good, maybe one of the best since I was here. But at the end, we’re talking about a bad result.

“It’s very difficult to comment on this game. We played against a team that is very good defensively. I think we created many chances to score, despite the solidity of this team.”

But Conte must be worried having witnessed a third straight defeat – two at the hands of competent but hardly dazzling mid-table sides in Southampton and Wolves.

Tottenham started assuredly against Wolves, opening up the visitors in the first minute as they set about righting the wrongs from the loss to Southampton on Wednesday night.

Conte had swapped the wing-backs, bringing in Matt Doherty and Ryan Sessegnon for Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon, and handing Rodrigo Bentancur his first start for the club.

But despite an early sense of purpose from the home side – and with Bentancur determined to show what he has got in his locker – it was Wolves who took the lead with their very first attack.

After some tepid attempts to clear their lines, Spurs surrendered possession and what came next was a defensive disaster class.

Lloris parried a thumping long-range effort by Daniel Podence, and his teammates were caught static as the Tottenham goalkeeper attempted to punch clear a second, weaker effort that came back at him.

His calamitous attempt to push the ball to safety failed completely: Raul Jimenez received the ball gratefully within the area and had time to chest it down and smash home from eight-yards out.

It was a cascade of defensive errors. While the response was admirable with Tottenham trying to build-up a head of steam and get back on level terms, they came undone again 12 minutes later.

A poor clearance from Ben Davies allowed Wolves to regain possession, and after Lloris failed to collect the ball amidst some pinball in the six-yard box, Leander Dendoncker reacted first to nudge home the second.

Spurs just could not find their composure. Harry Kane was denied by a last-gasp tackle from Nelson Semedo – and might have scored had he not dawdled too long on the ball, while Heung-Min Son was also guilty of ponderous possession.

On three occasions in the first half Son failed to move the ball quickly enough to exploit good opportunities – and he suffered from costly tunnel vision on two occasions when he tried to go alone with teammates better placed.

Before the half-hour mark, Conte had seen enough to make a tactical switch – a damning indictment of how his players had failed to carry out his instructions. The unfortunate Sessegnon – who out of the back five was not the worst culprit – was hooked for the attacking influence of Dejan Kulusevski.

The switch aimed to unpick a Wolves side now content to protect their lead and see out time as much as they could – and chances were created.

But, as with the sloppiness at the back, today Spurs also looked a worrying disjointed team in attack. The final ball was never quite good enough, and the aggression needed to win 50/50 challenges just wasn’t there. When clear-cut chances were conjured up, Wolves keeper Jose Sa was equal to them.

Conte has Eric Dier to come back and help the defence, and Oliver Skipp to take up one of the midfield berths alongside Bentancur. Until they are both fit and starting, this team looks about good enough to be in their current league position of eighth – with a Champions League spot inching away over the horizon.

Tottenham: Lloris, Sanchez, Romero, Davies, Doherty (Royal, 82), Winks, Bentancur, Sessegnon (Kulusevski, 28), Moura (Bergwijn, 71), Son, Kane
Substitutes not used: Gollini, Reguilon, Hojbjerg, Rodon, White, Scarlett

Wolves: Sa, Kilman, Coady. Saiss, Semedo, Dendoncker, Neves, Cundle (Trincao, 83), Ait-Nouri, Jimenez (Silva, 85), Podence (Hwang, 80)
Substitutes not used: Ruddy, Hoever, Marcal, Otto, Chiquinho, Gomes

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