Five Spurs players who might possibly be just a tiny bit sad that Antonio Conte has huffed off
Hard as it is to imagine, given that he spent his final days at the club calling them all wastrels and cowards, Antonio Conte’s departure may not be universally welcomed by the Spurs players.
Here, and admittedly by the end (and by the end we mean three onwards) it was a bit of a stretch, are five players who might be a bit worried about it all.
And here’s the reverse feature that was harder to keep down to five…
Like Niko Kranjcar signing for Harry Redknapp or Paddy Kenny for Neil Warnock. The idea that Spurs didn’t back Conte is one of the most pervasive of the myths the Italian has cultivated around himself, right up there with the idea that he has hair.
Spurs spent £60m on Brazil’s No. 9, £25m on a Premier League-proven central midfielder, signed one of the most promising players from the Championship and then when Antonio Conte threw his toys out of the pram and moaned that he didn’t like any of the right wing-backs he’d been given, Daniel Levy went out and spent £45m on another shiny new one for the spoilt bastard.
But at the very top of the list of Conte indulgences was the very un-Spurs and distinctly un-Levy signing of Ivan Perisic. Of all Spurs’ signings under Conte, this is the one that absolutely definitely was never a Club Signing. He was Conte’s man. And it was a fair enough move too. Perisic brought with him obvious quality, vast experience and a winner’s mentality. It’s been in evidence, just only in flashes.
And the problem for Perisic and Spurs now is that at his age in this league he can play one specific role: attack-minded left wing-back. He’s struggled in the games where he’s played in a front three and there really isn’t anywhere else to put him if the new manager is a back-four kind of guy.
Slightly more versatile and malleable than Perisic but still with a question mark now hanging over him is January arrival Pedro Porro. He may only be on loan, but it’s a loan with an obligation rather than an option. He, again, looks to be very specifically a wing-back not a full-back and while it’s not that hard to imagine, say, Pochettino seeing a bit of a young Kyle Walker in there it’s just as possible the new manager might be one who wants a proper right-back who can already do defending.
Like we say, might be fine this one. But could very quickly be an expensive odd man out and just on a very basic level joining a new club because you’re the ideal kind of thing for the specific system the manager favours and then seeing that manager rant himself out of the door six weeks later is surely sub-optimal.
Few players divide the Spurs fanbase quite like Hojbjerg, and the Spurs fanbase is one feverishly committed to long-running internecine feuds. Is he the no-nonsense Viking who provides much-needed toughness and steel to Spurs’ traditionally soft centre, or is he a poser and a fraud who waves his arms around quite a lot but goes missing at the first sign of danger?
The answer, unhelpfully, is both. Often in the same game. But Spurs managers from Mourinho to Nuno to Conte have all had a look at the Dane and deemed him undroppable and irreplaceable. Bit of a drag to have to go through the whole malarkey of convincing yet another manager you’re the irrepressible beating hard-man heart of the team.
Similar to the above, but over a far longer period of time. Only six men have made more Premier League appearances for Tottenham, and by the end of the season that number could be four. In six games he’ll go past Ledley King, which is definitely something.
Never in all that time has there been any consensus on whether Dier is any good. But manager after manager has sworn by him, often wooed by his impressively un-English ability to speak multiple languages. Again, a faff to have to go through this wearisome process all over again and a very real danger that a new manager might, unlike Conte, manage to locate a superior alternative who actually wants to come.
Bit of a stretch this one, but always going to be a struggle to find five people who might miss Conte when they are all part of a squad he called useless lazy coward twats on live TV. We have a sense that Kulusevski is the sort of player who is very, very useful in very specific systems and alongside very specific players. He performed a vital role in Conte’s rigid 3-4-3 in linking the 3-4 with the Kane and Son components of the 3.
He could do something similar working nominally from the right in a Poch-style 4-2-3-1 but if for argument’s sake the next manager is Julian Nagelsmann then it’s hard to see exactly where the Swede fits unless he can turn himself into a playmaker in the Eriksen, Maddison mould. He has the technical levels and the requisite vision and flair, but it’s a punt.