Football Features

“Still the big problem” – Conte asks for stability as Tottenham’s trophy drought set to hit 15 years

By Harry Edwards

Published: 23:09, 1 March 2022

Antonio Conte has lamented Tottenham Hotspur’s lack of stability as his side were knocked out of the FA Cup fifth round by Championship side Middlesbrough, with the Italian .

It’s been a strange few weeks for Tottenham both on and off the pitch, with Conte doing more U-turns than Usher regarding his future and the results yoyo-ing. It all started with that 3-2 win over Manchester City, that put Tottenham’s Premier League top four destiny into their own hands.

But they were unable to build on the momentum, losing 1-0 to relegation-battling Burnley, wasting one of their games in hand on the teams around them. A 4-0 trashing of Leeds at the weekend had hopes high again, both due to the result and the performance, but it was more of the same on Tuesday night – their seventh defeat from 13 games in 2022.

This wasn’t a smash-and-grab by Middlesbrough either, not by a long shot, as they set up perfectly to frustrate and nullify Tottenham, waiting for their perfect opportunity to strike.

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As they did against Man Utd in the fourth round, Middlesbrough took Tottenham to extra time, but Chris Wilder’s side didn’t need penalties to knock out this Premier League side. They just needed a 19-year-old forward playing in his second ever FA Cup game.

Josh Coburn was the goalscoring hero on the night, striking in the early stages of the second half of extra-time, just about staying the right side of an offside call (with no VAR) before powering the ball past Hugo Lloris. After the goal, Boro actually looked the more likely to score again, with Tottenham adding very little in terms of attack. They didn’t even send Hugo Lloris up for the late corners!

But while the city of Middlesbrough will celebrate long into the night, their first FA Cup quarter-final since 2016/17, it’s yet another blow for Tottenham, who will finish a season with a trophy yet again. By the time the next opportunity comes around for Tottenham, it’ll be 15 years since their last success, beating Chelsea 2-1 in the 2008 League Cup final, too long a wait for a club wanting to be considered among the top in the country.

And while Conte was a bit more diplomatic in his post-match press conference, the Italian still urged for Tottenham to find some stability.

“I feel we lost a big chance here. When you are playing against a team that have played in the Premier League you have to kill in a sporting way your opponent,” he told reporters.

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“When you don’t score the chances you create then you give them confidence. They deserved to go to the next round and compliments to them.

“We have to take good lessons from this defeat and continue to work. We have to become stronger and if you want to become competitive, we have to be a stable team. Too many up and down still for us. For sure we have to continue to work.

“We have to continue to work and know that there is the rest of the season. There are three months and a half to get work hard and get the best result.

“Then to see at the end of the season to get our best position in the table. This is only our way. We have to continue to work and improve in many aspects.

“We need to make this team more stable than it has been in the past. This is still the big problem.”

Conte also commented on his recent press conferences, claiming the U-turns have been strategic, learnt from his old coaches in Italy.

He added: “Sometimes it’s important for the coach, when you have the media conference, there also has to be a strategy. Sometimes it has to be strong, sometimes it has to be light. My old coaches in Italy, they taught me that the coach sometimes has to use the carrot, sometimes they have to use the stick.

“I have to use the right way. After Burnley with a stick and then we won. After Leeds with the carrot we lost. The coach has to be clear in his instruction. I know there is a lot of space for improvement.”

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