Tottenham boss Antonio Conte tore into his own players after they squandered a two-goal lead late on to draw at Southampton in yet another setback for the club. The Italian branded his Spurs players “selfish” after they conceded a 93rd-minute equaliser against the Premier League‘s bottom-placed team.
Spurs had led 3-1 with just 16 minutes of normal time remaining at St Mary’s after Ivan Perisic’s goal, which followed efforts from Pedro Porro and Harry Kane. But Theo Walcott very quickly reduced the deficit to pile on the pressure in the closing stages.
And James Ward-Prowse then scored a controversial penalty deep into stoppage time to leave Conte seething at his own players. The Tottenham manager, who is expected to leave at the end of the season, did not hold back in his assessment of their draw against the Saints which offers major encouragement to their top-four rivals Newcastle, Liverpool and Brighton.
After admitting he was “upset” in one interview, Conte fumed when speaking to the press: “I think that it’s the right moment to speak because I think that after this performance, for me this is unacceptable. We are winning 3-1, we’re in control and we concede two goals and Fraser [Forster] had to make saves.
“I think it’s better to go into the problem – we are not a team, we are 11 players that go on to the pitch. I see selfish players, players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart into it. Before today I try to hide the situation and improve the situation with words.
“One thing is the desire, the fire that you need to have in your eyes, your heart. You need to have this in every moment. This season compared to last, now we are worse in this aspect. When you are not a team you cannot improve.”
Referencing their recent FA Cup exit, Conte added: “Don’t forget we played against a Sheffield United team with young players and we dropped out [of the competition]. We need to understand we play for the badge. We play to make our fans proud of us. You have to have desire. The fire in your eyes. If you have this you don’t have this you don’t go out in the FA Cup.
“Here we are used to it for a long time. The club has the responsibility for the transfer market, the coach has the responsibility. But the players, where are the players? I see only 11 players that play for themselves.
“Now there are 10 games to go and someone thinks we can fight with this attitude, with this spirit, for what the seventh, eighth place? What? I am not used to fighting for this. It’s every one’s responsibility [to sort this out]. They are used to it here. They don’t play for something important.
“They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress. It is easy in this way. The Tottenham story is this for 20 years. There is the owner but they never won something. Why? The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stays here. I have seen the managers that Tottenham had on the bench.
“It is time to change this situation if Tottenham want to change. If they want to continue in this way, they can change the manager, a lot of managers, but the situation cannot change. Believe me.”
Spurs have only won eight of 17 matches in 2023 and have crashed out of the FA Cup and the Champions League, meaning a top-four finish is all Conte and co. have to play for from now until May 28.
The north London club now have a two-week break although many players will still be action for their international teams. Spurs return against Everton on April 3 at Goodison Park.