Antonio Conte unleashed a savage verbal assault on his Tottenham flops after watching them surrender a two-goal lead to draw at Southampton.
Conte branded them selfish, accused them of lacking ‘fire in the eyes’, admitted the collective spirit had gone backwards since last season and waded into the problems of the blame culture inside Spurs.
In a blistering 10-minute rant, the Italian claimed this was the reason they have not won a trophy for 15 years, insisting it was not the fault of chairman Daniel Levy or the string of managers.
‘They are used to it here,’ fumed Conte after a 3-3 draw at St Mary’s. ‘They don’t play for something important. They don’t want to play under pressure. They don’t want to play under stress. It is easy in this way. Tottenham’s story is this.
‘I said I wanted to see the fire and I have not seen it. I said that I want to see the fire in their eyes, in their hearts. I want to see the right spirit. Not only in the training session, but on the pitch because it is here you make the difference.
Antonio Conte was hugely frustrated with his team following the draw with Southampton
Tottenham were leading 3-1 with 16 minutes remaining but ended up drawing 3-3
‘Until now, I try to hide the situation but there are 10 games to go and some people think we can fight. Fight for what? With this spirit, this attitude, this commitment? What? For seventh, eighth, 10th place?
‘I am not used to being in this position. I am really upset, and everyone has to take their responsibility. Not only the club, the manager and the staff. The players have to be involved in this situation because it is time to change this situation if Tottenham want to change
‘If they want to continue in this way, they can change the manager, a lot of managers, but the situation cannot change. Believe me.’
For 20 years, Conte claimed, the owners and various managers – including serial winners like himself and Jose Mourinho – had taken the blame but that the players had always been excused.
‘You are finding an alibi, another alibi,’ Conte shot back when asked if uncertainty around his own future was part of the problem. ‘You try to find an excuse for the players. OK, continue to do this, to find an excuse for the players. You do only this!
‘Excuses for the players. ‘Maybe, it’s my future, then we lost confidence, they lost spirit, they lost being a team’. Excuses. Excuses. Excuse. Try to protect them every time. Bah. Come on, come on, come on. We are professional.
‘The club pay us a lot of money. The players receive money. I receive money and not to find excuses and not show spirit or a sense of responsibility. For me this is unacceptable because for me this is the first time in my career to see a situation like this.
‘Until now I wasn’t able to change it and compared to last season the situation has become worse.’
Conte accused his Tottenham players of being selfish and having a losing mentality
There remains uncertainty over Conte’s long-term future, with Daniel Levy watching on
Tottenham led 3-1 with 16 minutes remaining at Southampton. Pedro Porro opened the scoring and Harry Kane put them 2-1 up after an equaliser by Che Adams. But Theo Walcott reduced the deficit and James Ward-Prowse scored a disputed penalty in the last minute.
The manager did not address his players in the dressing room but strode directly into his media duties.
‘For me, it’s not a penalty and then we stop,’ said Conte. ‘The worst is what happened on the pitch, and what’s happening in the last few months, this my second season.
‘It is the right moment to speak because this performance for me it’s unacceptable. It’s better now to go into the problem.
‘The problem is that for another time we showed we are not a team. We are 11 players that go onto the pitch and I see selfish players, players that don’t want to help each other, don’t show heart.
Tottenahm defender Eric Dier stated that his team only have themselves to blame
Last week Conte criticised Tottenham’s supporters, stating that they lack patience
‘Most important if want if you want be strong and competitive is the desire, the fire in your eyes, in your heart and you have to show this in every moment. Instead, if I have to compare to last season, now we are worse in this aspect.
‘When you are not a team anything can happen. Don’t forget, we lost in FA Cup to Sheffield United who played with young players.
‘I’m not talking about tactics or technical aspects. To be a team, is the most important. To understand we play for the badge, to make our fans proud of us. We have to play to show desire. The fire in your eyes to win. If you have this you don’t go out in the FA Cup and today you win.’
Conte’s contract will expire at the end of the season. He is not expected to extend his deal and, after this, may have talked himself into a summit meeting with chairman Daniel Levy, who was at St Mary’s.
‘Maybe in the other games something can change but here we are used to it for a long time,’ added Conte. ‘The club has the responsibility for the transfer market and every coach here has the responsibility… and the players?
‘Where are the players? In my experience, if you want to be competitive and fight, you have to improve this. And this is really low in this aspect. I see only 11 who play for themselves.’