Antonio Conte wants his Tottenham players to use the dark arts to manage periods of suffering during matches. The manager, who is preparing for Sunday’s home game against Newcastle, has had time to reflect on Wednesday’s sobering 2-0 defeat at Manchester United.
Conte did not feel that the first half was as negative as he initially thought but he lamented how his team could not react after United went ahead through Fred in the 47th minute. He talked about poor decision-making in possession, loose passes and “stupid” turnovers, influenced in part by the pressure of the occasion, which he said they had to handle better.
The Italian was most interesting when he discussed how to cope when the opposition turn the screw, as United did from about the 20-minute mark. Spurs seemingly had no solution and were beaten when Bruno Fernandes added the second on 69 minutes.
“Sometimes when you are suffering … I was a player … you take the ball and you put it outside the stadium,” Conte said. “Or if you have an injury you stay [down]. I see many, many teams in England – they understand the moment when they are suffering. One player stops, wastes time. In this period you breathe. Your mind becomes clear again. This is experience.
“If you are suffering a lot you have to understand that maybe it is not the right moment to continue playing from the back. Go up, with a long ball, and fight for the second ball.”
Conte noted that “you can’t buy experience”. What he meant, with regard to the situation at Spurs, was that he could not bring in the number of finished-article stars he wants because they are too expensive, meaning a patient, step-by-step approach was needed. He does not always appear to be the most patient person.
Adding to Conte’s frustration is the demand for his team to play a further seven games in 20 days before the World Cup and injuries to Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison. Kulusevski had a setback in training last week and Conte is worried that he may not return before the World Cup. Lucas Moura is not yet fit to start after a tendon problem.