Saturday, January 22, 2022

Conte on Ndombele´s Tottenham struggles: You have to be good to change opinions

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 9 Jan 2022

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Antonio Conte can understand what Tanguy Ndombele is going through after being jeered by Tottenham supporters, but suggested it is down to the midfielder to win them over.

Ndombele incurred the wrath of his own fans after slowly walking off the pitch as Conte made a triple substitution with his side 1-0 down to Morecambe in Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie.

The 25-year-old trudged straight down the tunnel and fresh questions will now be asked of his Spurs career, which has yet to take off since joining from Lyon in July 2019.

Asked at his post-match news conference what he made of the reaction Ndombele received, Conte said: “I was just focused on the pitch.

“In football you have to be good to try to change your opinion if someone is disappointed with you.

“It happened to me as well as a player with someone being disappointed in my performance.”

Conte added: “We have to know very well that if we perform well, the fans are happy. If you don’t perform well, the fans are not happy. This is football.

“If we think the fans have to be happy any time, if you win or lose, I think that’s not right. Me, for sure, when I don’t win, I’m not happy, I am upset and I think that is OK.”

Conte’s changes paid off as Tottenham scored three times from the 74th minute onwards against third-tier Morecambe to advance through to the fourth round as 3-1 winners.

Two of those substitutes, Lucas Moura and Harry Kane, were on the scoresheet after Harry Winks had cancelled out Anthony O’Connor’s first-half volley.

That was Lucas’ fifth goal in 13 games under Conte, compared to just one goal from the same number of appearances under the Italian’s predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo.

“I think during the game you have to try the best solution to find something, especially when I see that we are losing 1-0 and you have to try to change something,” Conte said.

“That’s especially the case when you have players of top level on the bench. 

“I decided to give a bit of a rest to Lucas and Kane, but if you can change the situation and you have this type of player…”

Lucas and Kane dropped to the bench in two of eight changes made by Conte from the midweek EFL Cup loss to Chelsea, with the second leg of that tie to come on Wednesday.

Spurs had been on the verge of a huge cup upset up until Lucas and Kane’s intervention, with Morecambe – who are in the League One relegation zone – leading for 41 minutes.

Tottenham ended the match with an expected goals (xG) return of 2.7, compared to 0.8 for their opponents, and Conte felt they were good value for their eventual victory. 

“Our target was to go to the next round and we won the game,” Conte, who reached the FA Cup final with Chelsea in 2017 and won it the following year, told BBC Sport.

“We struggled a lot in the first part of the game and conceded a goal from a set-piece. We deserved to win because in these type of games you have to show your strength.

“They defended with 11 players and that’s normal in these games but it’s important to find the right solution.”

Tottenham have now advanced from 15 of their last 16 FA Cup third-round ties and will face fellow Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion for a place in the last 16.

Winks’ free-kick from close to the left touchline got the hosts back on level terms, with Morecambe goalkeeper Trevor Carson misjudging the flight of the ball.

But the Spurs midfielder insisted there was nothing fortuitous about the strike, which was his first of the season in all competitions.

“I meant that free-kick! My thought process was to aim for the far corner, try to connect to it and if I don’t someone can get a head to it,” he told BBC Sport.

“But we know it wasn’t a good enough performance and we were sloppy at times. Everybody could have upped their game a lot. At half-time there were harsh words said.

“We only have ourselves to blame. It was a poor performance from start to finish. We need to settle nerves and score. We didn’t do that and it was a poor performance.”

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