Antonio Conte has had enough of this Spurs squad and their ridiculous Spursy ways. Having established that it can’t possibly be in any way the fault of the highly paid and decorated manager, he went on to ruminate on whether to use the “carrot or the stick” with his maddeningly inconsistent players ahead of Monday’s clash with Everton.
It’s a terrifying thought. Here then is our best guess at the current rankings of Spurs players from most to least likely to get a pointy stick wedged somewhere unpleasant by a furious yet well-dressed Italian.
Yet to play a single Premier League minute for a manager who uses three centre-backs and has been without his two top choices for extended periods. That’s a paddlin’.
Save-averse Italian back-up keeper who is no longer trusted with cup games or even in recent weeks a place on the Premier League bench. Is somehow a full international, which, from the country of Zenga, Buffon and Donnarumma, is absolutely mind-blowing.
Drifting out of favour and reports that Barcelona were staggered by the fee Spurs offered are easier and easier to believe. His crossing just isn’t good enough to play as a Conte wing-back. Easy to have some sympathy: he’s a right-back, not a wing-back. But he wasn’t doing great at that either.
Has been involved in all but two of Conte’s Premier League games but does appear to be the biggest loser from Kulusevski’s arrival and instant end product. Has started only two of Spurs’ last six league games: the home defeats to Southampton and Wolves. Hmm.
Started eight of Conte’s first nine Premier League games, and just one of the subsequent six. Hasn’t featured at all in any of the last four. He’s definitely on the shitlist.
Dier and Romero are back, so it’s the sidelines for Sanchez. He’s actually done okay, and his late, late winner at Watford could yet be important.
Won’t start many games but is going to finish plenty. Admittedly not all of them as dramatically as he did at Leicester.
Has been alarmingly and conspicuously crap a few times recently. As with Kane and Kulusevski, there’s a chicken-and-egg thing here because these individual stinkers have coincided with the collective ones. Was he crap because Spurs were crap, or were Spurs crap because he was?
Is he first-choice left wing-back now? We think he might be. Bloody hell.
Is he first-choice right wing-back now? We think he might be. Bloody hell.
The main purpose of all those quotes from Conte about how Winks had earned a place in his circle of trust may have been to subtweet certain other, now departed, midfielders but it’s clear that he’s one of few players to whom Conte won’t actually enjoy administering the mandatory weekly inspirational ritual beatings.
Makes rather more mistakes than his solid citizen reputation would suggest, but he’s a clear Conte favourite and he’s actually better as the left centre-back than he is as a left-back. A better underlapper than overlapper. Will have been at Spurs 10 years when his current contract expires in a couple of years, which seems vaguely mad. In a few games he’ll go past Gareth Bale as Spurs’ most used Welshman of the Premier League era. And it won’t take long: he’s played the full 90 in 14 of Conte’s 15 Premier League games at Spurs.
We love this mad bastard but have a feeling that Conte’s admiration is tempered by mild frustration at his wildness. If the saying is right that all defenders are either cats or dogs, then Romero is definitely a dog. A great big daft puppy but with all sharp teeth and claws. Is clearly both brilliant at football but also a bit of a liability. Again suspect Conte doesn’t quite share our enthusiasm, but we adore that any time he finds himself up the field he seems to think “Ah well, I’m here now anyway” and just plays up front for a bit.
Annoying injury after encouraging start to life as the latest Spurs midfield scapegoat. Runs a bit like Dimitar Berbatov, which the fans will like but Conte probably isn’t as arsed about and fair enough. Handsome.
Conte did drop him for one game, the first time that had happened to the Dane in the Premier League since he joined Spurs, but that was for the 2-0 defeat to Wolves so it didn’t really work out. He’s back now, doing lots of pointing and shouting and slowing down any counter-attack Spurs might attempt. Not sure Conte’s any happier about it than the fans are, but Hojbjerg is still nowhere near the top of Conte’s list for a paddling.
Looked a slow and uninspiring new arrival in his early cameos from the bench but now showing plenty. Excellent in the wins at City and Leeds and has the versatility that this inadequate squad requires and the technique and work-rate Conte demands. Already Spurs’ joint third leading scorer in the Premier League this season. One of those where as a Spurs fan you must watch him and just wish he had a bit of pace to go with all the other attributes he possesses, but then remember that if he did also have pace then he definitely wouldn’t be playing for Spurs.
Had been in imperious form for quite some time really, but since signing a well-deserved new deal has just regressed slightly to one of those phases that have pockmarked his Spurs career where he starts chucking a few in for no apparent reason. That said, he’s captain, he’s broadly excellent, he’s actually got a CV with which Conte can relate and his understudy has literally never saved a shot in his entire career (subs please check). That new deal has dialled down the urgency, but sense remains that at some point Lloris will leave Spurs and turn out to have been quietly irreplaceable all along.
Was badly missed during his injury absence and the defence has definitely looked slightly less suspect since his return, albeit not quite as inexplicably watertight as in Conte’s early days. As he nearly always seems to be when a new manager rocks up at Hotspur Way, Dier is a key lieutenant.
A slightly curious one but definitely in Conte’s good books we think. Has undeniably appeared more engaged and less sullen now another supercoach is in place and the summer’s unpleasantness drifts towards the distance, and the fact he’s been involved in every single match of the Antonio Conte reign regardless of which competition Spurs happen to be making a bollocks of that day says an awful lot about an awful lot. Still not at his consistent best but has also produced, at Leicester, Manchester City and Leeds, three of the season’s standout individual Premier League performances. Spurs look more reliant on him than ever, and Conte hasn’t even explored other options because they’re aren’t any.
Perhaps the only entirely untainted Spurs player this season, Skipp’s emergence as apparently the most important player in the team is testament to his own work ethic and vast improvement – although Norwich fans will say they told you so – but also remains a shocking indictment on the rest of the squad. He’d played only a handful of Premier League games before this season and is now apparently irreplaceable.