EPL

Mourinho questions Tottenham decision to replace Nuno with Conte

By Sports Desk November 03, 2021

Roma boss Jose Mourinho has questioned the decision of his former club Tottenham to replace Nuno Espirito Santo with Antonio Conte.

The Italian signed an 18-month contract with Spurs on Tuesday after Nuno was relieved of his duties following a stuttering start to the season that saw them win five and lose five of their first 10 Premier League games.

The former Wolves manager saw his four-month spell at the North London club come to an end on Monday after a 3-0 defeat at home to another of Mourinho's former teams, Manchester United.

When asked whether Spurs turning to Conte would make them Tottenham stronger, Mourinho spoke to Sky Sport. “He is a good coach, but Nuno Espirito Santo is also a very good coach who had done well for four or five years at Wolverhampton. I can't say that Tottenham have a good coach now, they had one before. They have it now and they already had it.”

Like Mourinho, Conte has enjoyed previous success in English football with Chelsea, whom he guided to the Premier League and FA Cup during his two seasons in charge.

Of all managers to have taken charge of at least 20 Premier League games, only Pep Guardiola (73 per cent) has a higher winning percentage than Conte (67 per cent).

Mourinho and Conte clashed several times during their time in the Premier League when the former Italy boss was at Stamford Bridge and the Portuguese managed the Red Devils.

During his 18-month spell at Tottenham that came to an end in April, Mourinho managed 58 Premier League games, winning 27, drawing 14 and losing 17.

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  • Conte claims Tottenham need 'many years' to reach the level of Chelsea Conte claims Tottenham need 'many years' to reach the level of Chelsea

    Antonio Conte claimed Tottenham are "many years" from the level of Chelsea following Sunday's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge.

    Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva goals condemned Spurs to a fourth defeat of the season against their London rivals, their away league run against the Blues now standing at one win in 32.

    Conte's side lost both legs of the EFL Cup semi-final to Chelsea and have now gone six consecutive games without scoring against the European champions, the first time in their history they have ever failed to find the net in as many matches against the same opponent.

    Conte has spoken previously of the need for Spurs to strengthen if they are to challenge the top sides, despite having led them on a nine-game unbeaten run in the top flight after taking over from Nuno Espirito Santo in November.

    After their latest loss to Chelsea, which cost them the chance to move into the top four, the former Inter boss suggested it would take many transfer windows to build a squad capable of matching the best.

    "I don't like to lose. To comment on a defeat is always difficult for me," he told Sky Sports. "But to have nine games in a row without defeat was important, and in this moment, the gap with the other teams, like Chelsea, it's a really important game.

    "I'm proud of the effort of my players. We tried to do everything, but sometimes it's not enough, especially when you're playing against a team like this: a starting XI of strong players; on the bench, around the club, there are other players. There is a big difference between us and a top team."

    When asked about strengthening the squad before the transfer window closes, he said: "I repeat, this is not the right moment. The club know very well what I think. There is not one transfer market to close the gap.

    "In the last five years, this gap became very, very big. Now, it's not simple to find the solution in a short time. I'm only focused on the players to work. We have four months to try to give everything, but if we think we resolve the situation with the transfer market, it's not the reality.

    "You need many years. For sure, we have to start, and there is a point to start. For many years, the quality of the squad decreased instead of improved."

    Spurs thought they had taken the lead on Sunday when Harry Kane finished from Steven Bergwijn's cross, but the goal was disallowed for a push in the back of Thiago Silva.

    "I know it's difficult to comment, and I don't want to comment on the referee's decision, but to disallow this goal in England was incredible," said Conte.

    "But, I repeat, the referee tried to make the best decision."

    Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel was also surprised the goal was ruled out at the time, but he had nothing but praise for the effort of his players as they ended a four-game run without a Premier League win.

    "We were working extremely hard for it, it was a tough match, but I'm very happy because the effort was outstanding and it was a deserved win," he said. "It's so hard to create chances against them, but I think we were relentless and kept on believing.

    "The table is the table. In the end, it's our responsibility to prove ourselves every third day. Now we have a break, and it was important to go into this break with a victory. There is no substitution for a win, and for the feeling. You cannot produce it artificially, so we needed this, but we needed also to do things better and keep on believing."

  • Premier League data dive: Liverpool continue hold over Palace, Chelsea make London derby history Premier League data dive: Liverpool continue hold over Palace, Chelsea make London derby history

    Chelsea once again downed Tottenham at Stamford Bridge in the headline clash of the weekend's Premier League fixtures.

    Fellow title hopefuls Liverpool, who still have a game in hand, closed the gap on leaders Manchester City to nine points with victory over Crystal Palace in south London.

    Staying in the capital, Arsenal were held to a goalless draw by lowly Burnley as they lost ground in the race for the top four, while Leicester City shared the points with Brighton and Hove Albion.

    With the action all over for a couple of weeks, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from Sunday's fixtures.

    Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool: Reds down Eagles again as Robertson delivers

    Liverpool reduced Manchester City's advantage at the top to nine points after a 3-1 victory over Palace, who have lost each of their last 10 league meetings with the Reds.

    Virgil van Dijk placed Jurgen Klopp's side in control after just eight minutes at Selhurst Park with his 10th headed goal in the competition – only Sami Hyypia (17) has scored more headers for the Reds in the Premier League.

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added a second after the half-hour mark as he scored in back-to-back top-flight matches for the first time since February 2020.

    Both of those goals were created by Andrew Robertson, who now sits joint-second with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (both 43) for the most assists in the league since the start of the 2017-18 season, with only Kevin De Bruyne boasting more (52).

    Odsonne Edouard halved the deficit in the second half, but Fabinho secured three points with Liverpool's 169th Premier League spot-kick – the joint-most awarded to a team in the competition's history along with Manchester United.

    Arsenal 0-0 Burnley: Gunners fail to fire against Clarets

    Arsenal have failed to win any of their opening five games of a calendar year for the first time since 1995 after being held to a 0-0 draw by Burnley.

    Nick Pope was in excellent form, while Alexandre Lacazette spurned a glorious open-goal opportunity, as the Clarets conceded 20 shots – the most they have faced in the Premier League without conceding since May 2021 (21 versus Fulham).

    Lacazette's profligacy meant the Gunners have failed to score in four consecutive matches across all competitions for the first time since December 2005.

    Arsenal will be desperate to improve upon their torrid run of form to challenge for the top four, with this stalemate being the first time the Gunners have failed to beat the team starting the day bottom of the table at home for the first time since October 2008.

    Leicester City 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Foxes tamed by away specialists

    Leicester remained unbeaten at home to Brighton in the Premier League, though Brendan Rodgers may feel they should have claimed victory after a 1-1 draw.

    Patson Daka broke the deadlock as he became just the second Foxes player to score in each of his first three home starts in the competition, after Leonardo Ulloa in the 2014-15 season.

    The Zambia striker found the net just 26 seconds after the interval, the quickest goal scored in the second half of a top-flight game since February 2020.

    However, Danny Welbeck levelled things up as he scored his fourth goal against Leicester in the Premier League, only bettering that haul in games with Aston Villa (five).

    Neither side could find a late winner, ensuring the Foxes remain unbeaten at home to the Seagulls in the top flight since December 1980, while Graham Potter's side have only lost one of their last 11 away leagues games – a joint-low with Manchester City.

    Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham: Blues make London derby history  

    Chelsea registered their fourth win in all competitions this season – and third in January alone – over London rivals Tottenham with a 2-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge.

    Harry Kane thought he had struck first before the break but a slight push on Thiago Silva saw his finish ruled out before Hakim Ziyech expertly curled in his fifth league goal for Chelsea – all five of those having come at different venues.

    Silva added a second soon after as he became the oldest player (37 years, 123 days) to score in the Premier League since February 2013 to condemn Antonio Conte to his first top-flight defeat as Spurs head coach.

    The defender's header was set up by a free-kick from Mason Mount, who provided his 20th assist since the start of the 2019-20 campaign – the most by any Chelsea player across all competitions in that period.

    Spurs were unable to breach the Blues' goal, meaning they have now gone six matches across all competitions since last scoring against Chelsea, who became the first side to collect 500 points in Premier League London derby matches (501 points from 272 derbies).

  • Conte's squad frustrations laid bare as Chelsea outclass Spurs again Conte's squad frustrations laid bare as Chelsea outclass Spurs again

    A big week now approaches for Tottenham – while no manager will ever admit to being happy about losing, Spurs' 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on Sunday may actually do Antonio Conte a favour.

    The Italian has hinted at his desire to bring in reinforcements this month. Until this point, Spurs have not given into his apparent demands, but another loss to Chelsea might force their hand.

    The last week of the transfer window is about to begin and there is every reason to think it could define Spurs' season given the clues on show at Stamford Bridge.

    This contest arguably lacked the usual lustre in the build-up given how recently they tussled in the EFL Cup, a two-legged semi-final that left the two clubs looking worlds apart.

    Even Conte himself was damning in his appraisal of their respective outlooks, suggesting there was no comparison between his side and the team that won the Champions League last season.

    Chelsea won their EFL Cup tie 3-0 on aggregate, thus Conte knew changes were going to be required here.

    He returned to his former club with a plan, but perhaps few expected him to go – for want of a better phrase – 'full Mourinho'.

    The 'Special One' built much of his reputation on being tough to beat, and Conte certainly made several decisions that were Jose Mourinho-esque, not least the fact he deployed full-backs in front of full-backs on the flank as the Italian seemingly set his side up to be functional rather than entertaining.

    That's not to say Chelsea didn't find some joy. Mason Mount proved a nuisance with his movement in the half spaces in attack, with Spurs struggling to pick him up as he seemed to fall outside of the jurisdiction of everyone in defence and midfield.

    That was evident as early as the first minute as his cross found Romelu Lukaku, who volleyed over – later, they combined in exactly the same way but the Belgium striker completely missed his kick.

    Eventually Spurs reacted to Mount's presence with another Mourinhoism, as Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg slotted in to plug the gap in that area, something Mourinho's central midfielders often used to do in his classic Chelsea sides that went with two banks of four.

    With Harry Kane accompanied by Steven Bergwijn in the Lucas Moura role up top, Spurs' grand plan was pretty clear as they hoped to be able to capitalise on any rare forays forward – it looked as though they had as well, with the Dutchman picking out the England captain to net just before half-time, only for the goal to be wiped out for a slight push on Thiago Silva.

    But there was seemingly an ulterior motive surrounding Conte's selection and tactics as well, as he appeared to be sending message to sporting director Fabio Paratici.

    Three viable and available central attacking players were completely left out, with Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso all missing – the latter even confirmed on social media that he was fit.

    Harvey White, still awaiting his Premier League debut, and Dane Scarlett, a 17-year-old, were selected ahead of them on the bench, with Conte's decisions here a not-so-subtle evaluation of the attacking midfielders available to him.

    The fact is, this came just two days after Conte said he hoped "the club will listen to me" regarding their transfer dealings before the end of the month – he didn't reveal what he had put across to his employers, though these exclusions were surely a hint at the very least.

    Given the options otherwise available to him – as in the players he trusts in midfield – Conte perhaps didn't actually have much of a choice to deploy this set-up.

    But can Spurs realistically hope to qualify for the Champions League with their only trusted central midfielders being Hojbjerg, Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp? You would think not, and certainly not on the evidence of this match, with Spurs barely laying a glove on Chelsea bar the disallowed Kane goal as the hosts were allowed to control the midfield.

    Of course, it's worth saying Spurs were also a little unfortunate. Whichever way you look at it, the disallowing of Kane's goal was harsh, and Hakim Ziyech's gorgeous opener was a moment of magic. 

    Silva's second was controversial as well because the foul that was awarded from which Mount set up the Brazilian appeared to be questionable.

    Yet even if they had still been within touching distance of Chelsea heading into the latter stages, a quick glance at the benches showed an incredible gulf in talent available to the managers.

    There's a lot of work to be done with Spurs' squad and the next week could make or break their season.

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