Antonio Conte’s explosive outburst after Tottenham’s 3-3 draw at Southampton became a hotly contested topic among Premier League pundits on Saturday, as Jamie Carragher and former Spurs midfielder Jamie O’Hara claimed the Italian spoke out in hopes of his to lose a job in North London.
Furious at his team’s second-half capitulation, which saw Spurs throw away a two-goal lead over the Premier League’s bottom side, Conte branded his players “selfish” and accused them of lacking “fire in their eyes” in a disparaging lamentation after the game.
The Italian manager, who saw Spurs crash out of the FA Cup and Champions League earlier this month, is expected to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season, although several Premier League pundits believe his risky diatribe is just an attempt to hasten his inevitable departure.
Following Spurs’ disappointing draw at St Mary’s which put the north London side just two points clear of Newcastle in the top four race, Carragher tweeted: “Conte wants to be sacked in this international break. The Spurs should just put him out of his misery and do it tonight.”
His divisive social media post was quickly tossed out by Gary Neville, who simply dismissed the suggestion with a handful of laughing emojis, disagreeing with the idea that Conte was actively seeking the sack.
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte slammed his players in an explosive tirade on Saturday
Spurs led Southampton 3-1 with 16 minutes remaining but finished with a 3-3 draw
Conte’s furious diatribe
The Italian criticized his Tottenham players and the club’s culture in an explosive diatribe on Saturday.
He said: ‘They’re used to it here. They are not playing for anything important. They don’t want to play under pressure. They don’t want to play under stress. It’s easy this way. This is the story of Tottenham.
“I said I wanted to see the fire and I didn’t see it. I said I want to see the fire in their eyes, in their hearts. I want to see the right ghost. Not only in training, but also on the field, because this is where you make the difference.
“So far I’m trying to hide the situation, but there are still 10 games to go and some people think we can fight. Fight for what? With this spirit, this attitude, this devotion? What? For seventh, eighth, tenth place?
“I’m not used to being in this position. I’m really upset, and everyone needs to take responsibility. Not just the club, the manager and the staff. The players must be involved in this situation because it is time to change this situation if Tottenham want to change.
“If they want to continue like this, they can change the manager, lots and lots of managers, but the situation cannot change. Believe me.’
The Manchester United legend also responded to a fan’s tweet on Saturday, which reminded him of the limp word Carragher and Micah Richards gave him for not wanting Conte at Old Trafford a few seasons ago.
When asked if he remembered the jokes, Neville replied, “Oh, I do.”
Carragher continued his tit-for-tat social media action with Neville, replying, “Yeah, you’d rather have kept that series winner Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer)!” Then you didn’t want Pochettino Erik ten Hag. I told you Erik ten Hag was the better choice, but you wouldn’t listen.’
Elsewhere, ex-Wales captain Ashley Williams and former Premier League striker Dion Dublin had their say on Conte’s epic diatribe.
While performing his expert duties on Match of the Day, Williams said: “It would be interesting to know the conversation in the dressing room – did he say the same thing to the players’ faces or did he come out afterwards?”
“He’s had enough, and many of the things he says most people will agree with. It’s the way he says it. What I didn’t like is that he kind of said this isn’t about me, it’s about everyone else. But he can influence things on the field.’
While Williams agreed with Conte’s points and understood why the Italian made his public outburst, Dublin insisted that he himself would have been furious at the manager’s comments, had he still been a Premier League star.
‘[If I’m a player], I will have to pull him. You should go in there and say, “Say straight to my face, don’t do it in public.”
“I think his points came from pure anger and passion. Doing it in public is not the right way.”
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy must now make a major decision over the international break, with the Spurs just one mistake away from losing their advantage in the top four race.
Gabby Agbonlahor believes the best option now is for Tottenham to fire the Italian manager
Jamie O’Hara disagreed with Conte’s public criticism of his players
Newcastle, who won in the last minute at Nottingham Forest thanks to Alexander Isak’s stoppage time penalty on Friday, have narrowed the gap to just two points with two games left on the north London team.
Meanwhile, Liverpool, Brighton and Brentford will each feel there is an outside chance to qualify for the Champions League next season, especially with Tottenham showing inconsistent form under Conte.
Gabby Agbonlahor suggested that Levy’s best bet would be to fire Conte immediately, even if it means passing the baton to a youth coach rather than bringing in a full-time replacement.
“The best thing Spurs can do now is send Conte off. Even if you give it to the U23 manager until the end of the season. Put the players aside and fight for the top four. It makes no sense that the manager is now theirs,” he told talkSPORT on Saturday.
“On Monday morning they will have friction with some players. We also saw what happened to Richarlison. If I were Spurs right now, I’d just fire him. He wants to leave, it’s not working and his stay could cost the Spurs top four.”
Meanwhile, O’Hara, who was with Tottenham in 2008 when the club last won a trophy (the League Cup), does not disagree with Conte’s view of Spurs’ lack of passion and desire, but insisted that he can’t support a manager’ slaughtering his own team.
Conte’s criticism of the club’s culture, which is directly linked to Levy at the top, also didn’t make sense to the former midfielder in terms of how Spurs play on the field.
Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher (left) and Gary Neville (right) traded blows on social media on Saturday as the former defenders disagreed over Conte’s intentions following his outburst
He told talkSPORT: “Daniel Levy doesn’t pick the team, Daniel Levy doesn’t give the players a mentality, Daniel Levy doesn’t rest Harry Kane much in an FA Cup, Daniel Levy doesn’t play 3-4.” -3 formation.
“I don’t disagree with criticism of Levy and I’ve said it before about taking the club forward. He hasn’t helped, he hasn’t brought in the best players, but Conte’s comments are wrong.
“I don’t disagree with the comments about passion, the will to win, the mentality of the players, but it’s how he said it, where he said it and the timing of it.
“I can’t support a manager who slaughters his team when an international break is coming up and he basically tells Levy, ‘I’m begging you to fire me’.”
Finally, Jamie Redknapp was eager to give his opinion on Tottenham Hotspur’s Conte conundrum.
That’s the man’s emotion. At the moment his contract situation has pushed him to a situation where it looks like he probably won’t be there at the end of the year,” said the former Tottenham midfielder.
Several pundits believe Conte’s outburst will lead to friction in the Tottenham dressing room
Daniel Levy must now decide whether to fire the Italian during the international period
“It feels like his position has become almost a bit untenable. I don’t really see where this is going from here. I said it earlier in the year it felt like he talked his way out of the track. I wouldn’t be surprised, Tottenham sacked managers before the cup final.
“If you’re going to pick players, that’s a surefire way to lose that dressing room, I don’t see that. He mainly talks about the owners, the chairman didn’t win a trophy, a lot of great managers but they didn’t win anything.
“He probably feels that while they’re in charge, someday they’re going to buy the players you need. I thought he would be the first person to get the keys to the kingdom and buy all the players he wanted.
“There are a lot of players who forced him. He has a term of two, three years. In that period, even he feels that he cannot win at Tottenham and that is quite a pity.