Friday, January 21, 2022

Conte unsurprised by scale of Tottenham challenge ahead of first north London derby

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 14 Jan 2022


Antonio Conte laughed off the suggestion he had been surprised by the scale of the challenge at Tottenham, ahead of his first north London derby as Spurs boss.

Tottenham host fierce rivals Arsenal on Sunday knowing a win would see them leapfrog the Gunners, who sit fifth in the Premier League.

Spurs are unbeaten in their last seven home league games against Arsenal (W5 D2), their longest such run against their north London rivals since a run of nine between 1960 and 1968, while a win would see them claim three successive home league victories over the Gunners for the first time since 1961.

However, after claiming a 3-1 win in the reverse fixture this season, Arsenal are looking to complete their first league double over Tottenham since the 2013-14 campaign.

While Spurs have hardly been spectacular under Conte, they are unbeaten in the eight league games he has taken charge of so far, though Arsenal have won their last two Premier League away games, netting as many goals in these two victories (nine) as they had in their previous nine league games on the road.

Though they undoubtedly have a world-class head coach in place, the gulf between Spurs and the Premier League’s elite was on show as Chelsea eased to a 3-0 aggregate win in the recent EFL Cup semi-final.

Arsenal, with 10 men, held Liverpool to a goalless draw in the first leg of their semi-final tie on Thursday, and Conte believes Mikel Arteta’s side are ahead of his team in regards to the progress of their “project”.

Yet the former Inter boss dismissed the idea that he had been taken aback by the task at hand.

“I decided to accept this job because to work in this environment, to work in a modern club is good I think for every coach,” Conte chuckled in response in Friday’s news conference.

“Then, when you’re outside you can imagine the situation no? Then, when you’re inside the situation, you can understand every aspect very well.

“Now it’s time to work. I made my evaluations about the situation, but now I think no words but facts. We have only to work to try to improve the situation that I have found here.”

On Arsenal, Conte said: “I think that they’re working, they’ve started to work and to build something important.

“They had more time than us and Arteta has the possibility to work with the players for a couple of years. Also to go in the transfer market.

“I think they’re doing a good job in this moment but maybe, for this reason, they’re ahead in the project than us because they have started before [us] with the same coach. Now they’re having good results.

“Arsenal are a really good team, but we want to know how much we’re improving from the last period.”

Conte did, however, offer assurances that he is committed to the job at Spurs, having signed an 18-month contract upon his arrival.

“We agreed, Tottenham and I, the length of the contract. I think was good for me to see the situation and for the club to understand the coach they’re going to work with. I’m enjoying my time in Tottenham,” he added.

“I found a fantastic atmosphere, a great stadium, a great training ground. For sure, we want, and I want to improve the situation. I think all the people, we want and deserve much more than this.”

Conte confirmed Spurs are assessing one new COVID-19 case within their squad, while Eric Dier will miss Sunday’s match due to injury.


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