Antonio Conte tore into his ‘selfish, scared’ Tottenham players after watching them give up a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 with rock-bottom Southampton.
Tottenham missed out on the chance to move up to third in the Premier League after James Ward-Prowse’s stoppage-time penalty earned struggling Southampton a dramatic 3-3 draw.
Spurs had looked set to clinch all three points at St Mary’s after maiden strikes by Pedro Porro and Ivan Perisic were sandwiched by Harry Kane’s 23rd goal of the campaign.
Ruben Selles’ bottom-of-the-table side had scored only twice in their previous five league appearances but showed the same fight that saw them recently take points off Chelsea and Manchester United to come back from 3-1 down to boost their survival hopes.
Ward-Prowse’s late penalty, after Pape Sarr had fouled Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the area, added to second-half efforts by Che Adams and Theo Walcott to earn Saints a share of the spoils.
Conte was furious with his players’ performance and refused to bite his lip after the game.
“I’m really upset because this is not the first time,” he told BBC. “And I think today I can tell you that this is an upset because we are winning 3-1 and 15 minutes to go and I think you have to win. Instead we showed this another time, things started to improve last season but we lost the characteristic of last season. I don’t want to talk about the technical aspect, the spirit is missing.
“We are not a team. We are a team that everyone is thinking of himself. When you are in this way that can happen, you lose against Sheffield United and drop the FA Cup and with AC Milan and to finish that run you’re winning 3-1 and the last 15 you are able to give them the possibility to come back. I don’t see the sense of responsibility of the players.
“Now it’s difficult – we are working hard with this group and to move in the right direction. We are going behind, I see a lot of negative situations and a lot of selfish situations and players that I don’t like. I know the way to beat teams, in the past I beat a lot of teams, winning teams. Now instead we are going behind, no one is interested in this.
“I have great frustration about this because me and the staff stay every day to think of a way to improve. Honestly, it’s time I have to take responsibility for me, the staff, the club but also the players.
“The players go onto the pitch, I’m the coach, OK I take the responsibility, the players have to take some. What happened in the last period is unacceptable and I tried every moment to speak to try to improve the situation and to transfer the importance to be a team and to help each other but I’m not seeing this. Today it happened in a game we’re winning 3-1, it’s in your hands but we have to take the environment. The club and I are always under scrutiny but the players have to take responsibility because I don’t see this.
“In a process where you want to build something, the tactical aspect is important but the spirit is important. The mind has to stay focussed and despite one and a half years, I saw much more last season. This season we are going backwards.”
Dear Mr Levy,
I don't want to be the manager here any more but I really love money so I don't want to resign. Please can you sack me so I can have my money but without being the manager?
Mr Conte https://t.co/X9Q3LldMNz
— Ian King (@twoht) March 18, 2023
Conte repeated his sentiments when he spoke to Sky Sports.
“When we play a game anything can happen and usually my team show great stability and not up and down. Instead if I have to compare this season, the improvement we are doing this season compared to last season we are losing the work we did last season.
“I don’t want to speak about the tactical, I’m talking about the spirit and the heart we put into the pitch. Instead we are losing this characteristic, if you don’t have this in my experience you can lose against these teams – Sheffield United (FA Cup) with younger players, today we are winning 3-1 and feel the perception anything can happen and we’re scared. What we’re seeing in these last matches, I don’t like it. I’m not used to seeing this. I see a lot of selfish players. I don’t see a team.
“Frustration is not for today. It’s right to tell the truth and keep the eyes open – the truth is we have to give satisfaction to our fans and we are not doing this – we all have to take the responsibility. It’s happened before with other coaches. Maybe if we start to think the players have to take responsibility it’s the right moment, otherwise we’re out of Europe.
“From what I’m seeing to talk about Champions League is useless because in this moment we’re not a team. We don’t have spirit, we’re not putting heart into the pitch for the badge or the sense of belonging. If we don’t have this we will finish the season really badly. It was a clear problem today but it’s the end of a cycle of bad results. The fans deserve much better than this team.”