Conte questions Tottenham squad after shock NS Mura defeat
Spurs boss delivers frank assessment of his players after humiliating 2-1 Europa Conference League defeat at Slovenian minnows
Friday, 26th November 2021 — By Dan Carrier
Europa Conference League
NS MURA 2 (Horvat 11, Marosa 90+4)
TOTTENHAM 1 (Kane 72, Sessegnon sent off 31)
“EMBARRASSING, inept, unworthy of the shirt” – Tottenham fans took to social media to lay into second-string squad players who were humbled by Slovenian minnows NS Mura in the Europa Conference League tonight (Thursday).
Spurs were beaten by an injury-time winner by the lowest-ranked team in UEFA’s inaugural booby prize tournament, a side who had lost all four of their games before hosting the north Londoners.
Mura’s Amadej Marosa hit the winner with the last kick of the game. Harry Kane had brought Spurs level in the second half after Tommy Horvat had given the home side the lead.
The visitors were poor throughout, and didn’t help themselves when Ryan Sessegnon was sent off for two yellow card offences on 31 minutes.
Antonio Conte was frank about what he had seen – and it is clear there are a group of players he does not believe any amount of magical Italian fine-tuning will bring up to standard.
“After three weeks I am starting to understand the situation,” said the Spurs’ boss. “It is not simple. At this moment the level at Tottenham is not so high.
“There is an important gap to the top teams in England. Of this we must not be scared. I am here to work, here to improve the situation.
“After three-and-a-half weeks, I am happy to stay here but at the same time I must be honest and tell you we need to work a lot to improve the quality of the squad.
“We have a lot of desire to work but you can work, work, work, work. But you can push a car at maximum level and sometimes it is not enough to be competitive. I want to be very honest, we have to improve in many, many aspects.”
Judging from Conte’s comments, it would appear the end of the road for a number of under-performing players.
Writing off Matt Doherty is no biggie, and there is also the sense we’ve seen enough of Tanguy Ndombele. But the demise of Dele Alli is perhaps the bitterest.
Signed in February 2015, Alli was an instant hit and gave Spurs three great years. Remember his first goal – a stooping header at the back post away at Leicester? He ghosted his way in, made contact and a star was born.
Alli then played alongside Eric Dier against Arsenal in a one-all draw, and was man-of-the-match. In January 2016, away at Crystal Palace, he scored an overhead-kick volley. There were braces against Chelsea, too – he enjoyed a spell of six goals in five appearances against the Blues). He had a great song, too.
Alli’s childhood hero was Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, and in those flushes of youth, it was expected he would develop into a goalscoring, hard running, killer passing, box-to-box midfielder in the Gerrard mould.
But he has not added Gerrard’s dominating competitiveness to his game – and it means feasibly his position is just behind the striker.
Yet Alli has failed repeatedly both on the pitch and the training ground to convince managers that he deserves a team system built to incorporate strengths that have not shown themselves consistently for over two years.
Things dipped after a hamstring injury in January 2019. It dogged him for the rest of the year. After his mentor Mauricio Pochettino was sacked, Jose Mourinho showed faith, pushing him higher up the pitch and vowing to get a tune from him. He didn’t.
Nuno Espirito Santo – remember him? – tried to find the Alli of old, and after scoring the winner against Wolves earlier this term, it looked like there may be little green shoots of recovery.
But an invisible performance against Arsenal led him back to the bench, and there he remains. Conte has given everyone a clean slate – but surely, after another listless showing tonight, Alli is done.
NS Mura: Obradovic, Karnicnik, Gorenc, Karamarko, Kous, Lorbek, Kozar (Ouro, 62), Sturm (Lotric, 77), Horvat (K Cipot, 87), Mulahusejnovic (Marosa 62), Pucko
Substitutes not used: Erjavec, Zalokar, Bucek, Bobicanec, T Cipot, Mahimic, Klepac, Mandic
Spurs: Gollini, Tanganga, Rodon (Dier, 54), Sanchez, Doherty (Davies, 54), Skipp, Ndombele (Hojbjerg, 76), Sessegnon, Alli (Son, 54), Kane, Bryan (Lucas, 54)
Substitutes not used: Lloris, Austin, Royal, Reguilon, Winks