Tottenham Hotspur’s 4-1 defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium was their biggest loss under Antonio Conte and put their hopes of finishing in the top four this season in real jeopardy. Spurs have struggled for consistency since the turn of the year and it was the kind of performance that seemed inevitable at the King Power Stadium having played so well at home to Manchester City. Conte just can’t seem to get the best out of his squad on a regular basis.
Indeed, this is a Spurs side with plenty of potential. Having finished fourth last term, beating North London rivals Arsenal to the remaining place in the Champions League, the natural progression under the Italian would then be to build a side capable of challenging for the title. However, Conte and co. have had to watch by as the Gunners have surpassed them in the table this term, and now lead the football betting odds as favourites for the Premier League title.
It’s been 15 years since Tottenham last won a trophy, and with Conte arriving as the man to end that drought, attention may have to turn back to their league form to try and rescue their top four hopes instead. They looked listless against Leicester after Rodrigo Bentancur fired them ahead, running out of steam as the Foxes fired four back without reply. Conte himself was left questioning where things went wrong, aware of the pressure his side now face to try and earn Champions League football once again.
“If you want to win or achieve some targets and have a good position in the Champions League or in England in the Premier League you have to be stable,” he said. “It is not an easy task being so focused. We are working on that, playing under pressure all of the time is good for some players and bad for others.
“Sometimes players feel motivated, other times they feel so much under pressure that they can’t perform. You can be prepared for everything, you can be a tactical man, good strategies, good line-ups, you can have high-quality players but then if those high-quality players get injured then you need to change things.
“Every manager wishes to have the best players available. Luck has abandoned us.”
It leaves Spurs facing Groundhog Day at the midpoint of the season. There’s time to turn things around but Spurs will need their full squad available to do so. New signing Pedro Porro struggled on his debut, but he’ll have hardly faced wingers as direct as Harvey Barnes in the Portuguese league and will need to adapt quickly, especially with Djed Spence out on loan. Captain Hugo Lloris is expected back from the treatment table soon. The World Cup finalist and France skipper will be a calming presence between the sticks and will help Spurs rediscover that tough exterior that made them so hard to beat in the opening weeks of the season.
Overall, the route to Europe won’t be straightforward for Spurs. Liverpool and Chelsea can’t be as poor as they were throughout the festive period much longer while Newcastle United, Manchester City and Arsenal strengthen their lead on the top three leaving just one space in the Champions League up for grabs. One would think it is a straight shootout between Spurs and Manchester United, but with plenty of games left between now and the end of the season, it could go right down to the wire for Conte — three months that could decide if he remains at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next term.