Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt believes the club can still finish in the top four in the Premier League this season after appointing Antonio Conte as manager.
Spurs turned to the Italian coach after sacking Nuno Espirito Santo last week following a start to the campaign that saw them lose five of their opening ten league games.
Ahead of Sunday’s clash against Everton at Goodison Park – Conte’s first Premier League game in charge at Tottenham – Mabbutt said that the decision to remove Nuno was the correct one, and gives his former club a chance at finishing in the top four to qualify for the Champions League.
Mabbutt told Stats Perform: “I think that in the summer there was a lot of due diligence done on managers and going after different managers. And of course, some of them Spurs went after obviously weren’t available.
“The chairman was looking for a manager to bring back the DNA of Spurs, the attractive attacking flair type football, and they believed in Nuno that he could do that.
“After the first month of the season, they were top of the table, not conceded a goal, played three games and got nine points, and Nuno got the Premier League Manager of the Month. It was all looking good.
“But since then it was a real roller coaster ride with performances, ranging from being good enough to be able to scrape away with a one-nil victory.
“But then there were occasions against Crystal Palace, the second-half against Chelsea, against Arsenal, and against Manchester United – they were well below-par performances.
“The remit was for Nuno to bring back the DNA of Spurs. That didn’t seem to be working, and I think the chairman and the board had to make a decision.
“They’re four points off the top four. We want to be in that top four, and things had to be addressed. I was delighted that the board acted very, very swiftly and brought in Antonio.”
5000 – Tottenham have appointed Antonio Conte on the day that marks exactly 5,000 days since the club last won a trophy (the 2008 League Cup). Exorcism? pic.twitter.com/11uBChtPIl
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 2, 2021
Mabbutt, who played 619 games for Spurs in all competitions, won the UEFA Cup in 1984, and captained them to the 1991 FA Cup, praised the job that Nuno did at Wolves but admitted that the Portuguese coach did not ultimately fit with what Spurs needed.
“If you look at what Nuno achieved at Wolves over the last few years, I think he’s done an incredible job there, and he was given an opportunity [at Spurs], and yeah, it didn’t work out for him,” he added.
“Nuno is a really good guy. He is a gentleman and is the sort of chap that you want to do well. But I think it was clear to see after the first four months of the season that what the club were looking for to be fulfilled was not going to happen.
“As I said, a decision had to be made quickly because we’re still in with a chance to getting into that top four. That’s where we want to be.”
When asked about the number of different managers at Tottenham in the last few years, Mabbutt said that the club have made the difficult decisions when they have had to, and emphasised the need to get “back on track”.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing. You look back at the past, to things we would change if we could. You know [Mauricio] Pochettino was very, very popular at the club. He came in and he took us to the Champions League final,” Mabbutt said.
“But again, things towards the end of his tenure didn’t seem to be right. And again, the board had to make a decision.
“I think for Mauricio getting the Paris Saint Germain job, for him, is a dream because he loves Paris. He played there, and of course with the squad they have built up at the moment, I think he’s enjoying himself there.
“It’s easy to say, ‘What if we kept Mauricio? What if things had been different?’ But that’s always going back in hindsight, it’s always wondering what could happen.
“But we have to deal with the facts as they are, and position that we’re in. Mauricio left, Jose [Mourinho] came in to replace him.
“And then of course after that Ryan Mason came in for a short spell, and then Nuno, and after that Antonio. So, I think it’s something like four managers in the last six months we’ve had in place. So, we now need to get back on track.
“We now need to get more of a solid background I think for the manager and the staff coming in. Antonio has been given an 18-month contract with a potential year extension on that. So yes, I think everyone’s been excited by Antonio coming.”
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