The last thread that keeps Antonio Conte tied to Tottenham is the one that weaves him into the narrative as the best man to secure his place in the top four.
Spurs are a team built for their 3-4-3 system and without the distractions of those pesky cup competitions, Conte can push himself through tactical sessions all week to put together a solid finish.
Qualify once again for the Champions League and everyone will be able to pretend that the date was a success before parting ways at the end of their contract.
There are a dozen games left and the matchup isn’t too daunting, though nine wins are required to surpass last season’s total of 71 points.
However, he pulls the thread and the logic begins to unravel. Tottenham is some distance away in such an emphatic way. This month he has played three times without scoring, he has been left out of two competitions and the first murmurs of discontent leaked from the camp.
Antonio Conte’s time at Spurs appears to be coming to an end after their exit from the Champions League.
Richarlison criticized the Italian coach and his tactics after Tottenham’s elimination
Harry Kane admitted that morale is low at Tottenham after his latest results
After Wednesday’s Champions League knockout against AC Milan, Richarlison criticized the decision to leave him out. “He has not given me enough minutes,” said the Brazilian. “This season, excuse my language, it’s been shit.”
Harry Kane, who spent the first hour of last week’s FA Cup defeat on the bench against Sheffield United, said he “stuck a dagger into our hearts and we never really recovered.”
If he survives until Nottingham Forest on Saturday, we’ll find out if Conte can still motivate his players and if they still want to play for him.
The 53-year-old Italian is obsessed with hard work and fueled by pride. When he was leaving Chelsea, he drove to win the FA Cup in his last game and then took them to court to win an unfair dismissal case.
But now there are health concerns, after missing five games while recovering from surgery to remove his gallbladder.
When asked about his future after the Milan game by an Italian broadcaster, Conte replied: “We’ll see, they might fire me even before the end of the season, who knows, maybe they’ll be disappointed.”
An illusion, perhaps. His spell at Tottenham is drawing to a close and there is a school of thought that says it would be better to ask him to clear his desk and quickly find a successor, or complete the season with an interim manager.
Chairman Daniel Levy will make the decision in a climate of instability, with Kane’s contract soon entering its final year and recruiting guru Fabio Paratici struggling to clear his name after a financial scandal from his time at Juventus.
Daniel Levy must decide whether to fire Conte now or wait until the end of the season
Spurs fans chanted Mauricio Pochettino’s name on Wednesday, recalling how, despite not winning anything under him, at least the football was decent.
The fare this season has been dull as Conte has made up for shortcomings at the back by including protection elsewhere at the cost of creativity, especially since he was without Rodrigo Bentancur in midfield.
The home crowd booed when he sent defender Davinson Sánchez to replace winger Dejan Kulusevski against Milan, repairing Cristian Romero’s red card and leaving attackers Arnaut Danjuma and Lucas Moura on the bench.
Conte is an excellent coach and it was a blow to get him. He dragged them back into the Champions League, but they couldn’t match his relentless demands for the players he believes are needed to compete for big prizes.
Like his predecessor José Mourinho, he always yearned for more. He was never a natural fit for the Spurs. But what does it mean that Pochettino will be different since he worked with Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi in Paris and flirted with Manchester United and Real Madrid?
He will not be the same man who came from Southampton nine years ago and transformed the place. He was not that man when he was sacked six months after the Champions League final.
Pochettino is charismatic and likeable. But even as his name was chanted at the Seven Sisters station, there were dissenting voices.
Perhaps they fear another twist in the wheel of Levy’s misfortune, taking them back to 2019, trapped in the myth that a sudden managerial appointment is the solution to all their problems.