Antonio Conte has made it clear that strategy rather than emotion was behind his comments this week that shook up Tottenham Hotspur.
The Italian made headlines after Spurs’ 1-0 defeat at Burnley when he declared to the media at Turf Moor that he needed to speak to the club about the future following what was the team’s fourth loss in five games.
He also floated that idea that he would leave Tottenham if that was determined to be the best solution to solve the current malaise.
football.london reported the following morning that those around Conte believed his strong words were more of a challenge to his players as while he would not criticize publicly, he privately felt they had let him down with some of their performances.
On Monday, ahead of Spurs’ FA Cup fifth round tie at Middlesbrough, Conte confirmed that it was not emotion driving his statements in midweek.
“I think that you have to understand when there is a strategy or not and not only an emotional moment,” he said.
“It is not right to stay here and explain why I talk in one way and after three days I spoke in another way. Maybe though I can explain to you, every time we have a press conference there is a strategy behind it, not an emotional moment.
“I understood that was the right moment, after four defeats in five games and won the game against Manchester City three days ago, to send the right message, a clear message to myself, the club and also the players.
“We have to know we are here to enjoy football, at the same time to improve ourselves, to ask ourselves for 100 per cent commitment and desire and also to underline that a team like Tottenham does not exist to lose four games in five.
“If someone understood that my words were from an emotional moment, no. In that moment I sent a specific message to the whole environment and it has happened in the past, when I want to push the situation and the environment in the same direction, because I am seeing we can do better, it is not because it is an emotional moment, it is because there is a strategy behind.
“But next time I don’t [explain]! I think it was good that I explained the strategy during the press conference, I am not only an emotional moment, but sometimes you deserve our right consideration and not a simple or stupid consideration, but sometimes go deeper is sometimes interesting for you [the media].”
Conte also explained his living situation, with the 52-year-old living in an apartment suite within a hotel while his wife Elisabetta Muscarello and their daughter Vittoria remain in Italy.
“I remember very well in my first season at Chelsea, my family stayed in Italy and then came to England. My daughter she is 14-years-old and to again change the school every time and change the habit now she is starting to have friendships. I understand it,” he said.
“I also have this responsibility with her. At the same time I know that my daughter loves England and loves London and it would be easy to bring her again in London.”
The Tottenham fans have quickly taken to the 52-year-old former Inter Milan boss and sing his name in every match. It is something that he appeared genuinely touched by.
“First of all I want to say thanks to the fans because I think that I don’t deserve after only four months to have this, they chant for me,” he said.
“For me this is incredible. I have only to say thanks because they chant my name and they give me a lot of boost every time, but I would like to repay their trust to improve their situation with the players for Tottenham for this club.
“For sure it is a great boost for me to see the fans despite only four months that I stay here, they chant my name and they love me. It is the same for me, I want to repay them for this effort they show me and my family.”
Conte would like to repay the Spurs fans for their support with what would be a rare piece of silverware in recent decades but most of all he just wants to bring them a team to be proud of.
“Yes [I would like to win the cup for them] but for sure the only way that I know to repay is effort and try to make our fans proud of our team and Tottenham,” he said.
“This is the best way to repay and for sure we are working very hard from the first day I arrived and for this season sometime I am bit upset when the result is not good because I would like to give them great success, me and the players, because I know the players are totally involved with me to try to give success to the fans.”
Conte has got history in the FA Cup and has only lost match in the competition, the final in his first season, before lifting the trophy the next year.
“I think that this can be a good boost for me because don’t forget when I arrived at Chelsea, my first season and we reached the final of the FA Cup and Chelsea the previous season finished the 10th season and then we reached the final we lost against Arsenal,” he said. “Next season we won against United.
“For sure it’s a big challenge for me, for my players because maybe you start this tournament as underdog but at the same time you know when you arrive to play this game and you know that there are only four games to reach the final and you start to feel the possibility to see the target, to see the goal close to you and then for this reason we have to try to push ourselves to go ahead in this competition and to try to create problems for the team that usually at this moment they are favorites to win this trophy.”
On Tuesday evening, Conte will lock horns with Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder who joked about his attacking centre-backs on Monday: “I said to Antonio at one awards evening that he was copying me, but, actually, I’m not so sure about that. Spurs have a world-class manager.”
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When told what Wilder had said, Conte laughed: “Ah but he was joking … yeah, yeah he was joking, because I was one of the first to use the situation but for sure this is a system but then every coach tries to improve the system with their own idea and in this case he had this type of idea to bring the central defenders and also to feed the box.
“He is good and also shown that he is a manager that studied football and wants to improve. Then we can watch a game and I can see a system I like for example this type of system but then I try to adapt my idea and the characteristics of the player, this system not only because you play 3-5-2 it means that you play the same way like me.
“They are different. Different and I’m very happy that he found an alternative, another solution to exploit this system because for me this system is very good.”
He added: “I know him and I know that he likes to play also with three central defenders and he is a really good manager and did a really good job.
“I remember also with Sheffield United he had the characteristic with the central defenders to go into the box for the cross, I know him.”