Antonio Conte is the PL’s sh*thouse king… he’s far too fun to manage PSG

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte applauds the fans following the Premier League match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. 12 May 2022.

One brief look at the facial expressions of Antonio Conte and Mikel Arteta following Thursday night’s north London derby told you everything about how things went for Tottenham and Arsenal respectively.

The two managers did well to keep their emotions in check, at least superficially.

Arteta’s various post-match duties were not quite delivered with Sir Alex Ferguson’s standards of barely-contained rage. Conte wasn’t exactly Jurgen Klopp after a big win, wide-eyed and smiling with every one of his veneers.

But you don’t need a Master’s in psychology to decipher their body language.

Indeed, Arteta – in classic Jose Mourinho, ‘If I speak’ fashion – would not allow himself to let loose and say what he evidently thought of various officiating decisions in Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

Spurs’ opener came courtesy of a penalty and a short while later Rob Holding received a second yellow for a fourth foul on Son Heung-min. There was little doubt how things would go from there and sure enough, the hosts duly cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory.

“If I say what I think I’m suspended for six months. I’m allowed to give my interpretation on the game but I don’t like to lie so I’d prefer not to say,” Arteta told reporters.

“With my players, I’m so proud of my players. You can ask the referee to come in front of the camera and explain his decisions. I make mine. That’s his decision. A beautiful game was destroyed today.”

Conte, for altogether different reasons, was also not interested in discussing the minutiae of Paul Tierney’s decision-making. Unsurprisingly, he felt his players were responsible for the result, not the match officials.

“I’m delighted with the way we managed the pressure,” Conte told reporters in his post-match press conference.

“I speak about this, the pressure was only on our shoulders tonight. Arsenal could draw or win, they had two good results to keep us far from a place in the Champions League.

“To see my players manage this, what happens when there is a red card on the other side you have to pay more attention especially when they have one yellow card.”

The Italian’s response to Arteta’s complaints about the referee?

“Mikel Arteta is a really good coach. He has just started to do this job and I listen to him complain a lot,” he said.

“I think that he has to be focused more to his team and not to go to complain because he has just started this work. He has to be calm and try to continue to work.”

Conte might as well have been wearing shades and smoking a cigar, Carlo Ancelotti style, while he delivered the line.

It wasn’t a withering put-down, as with his “little man” jibe at Jose Mourinho, but patronisingly insisting Arteta is a “really good coach” before advising him to “be calm” is arguably even more brutal.

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READ: ‘He’s a little man’ – Remembering Conte and Mourinho’s brief yet iconic rivalry

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Nobody can deny that Manchester City against Liverpool is one of the Premier League’s great rivalries in terms of the football produced on the pitch. But critics routinely insist that it lacks the spice of Manchester United against Arsenal in its Wenger vs Fergie heyday. Too much respect for the opposition is boring.

If there’s one contemporary coach that can’t be accused of underseasoning the Premier League broth, it’s Antonio Conte. The 52-year-old is the perfect match for a nascent club with big ambitions of shaking up the old guard. It’s a treat to see him prowl the touchline in one of English football’s great local rivalries.

Whatever happens next, whether Spurs’ victory over Arsenal counts only for local pride and not a whole lot more, it would be a crying shame if this was the only north London derby to feature Conte.

His condescending needling of Arteta demonstrates that Conte is a prime shithouse, making the potential of next season’s reunions all the more tantalising.

Not only that, but the way Spurs played in the deserved 3-0 win – and the way Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min have been clicking together for months – proves he’s a great manager too.

Rumours continue to suggest the Tottenham manager is being lined up as Mauricio Pochettino’s successor at PSG, but where’s the fun in managing French football’s Goliath? There, success is defined by a handful of Champions League knockout games. There, you can cruise to a league title and still get sacked.

At Spurs, Conte is able to test his mettle against the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. He can effortlessly rile up his rivals. He can get the best out of Kane and Son and build something genuinely special.

Conte can’t be allowed to go a club where league titles are won by default. He’s too good. And more importantly, he’s far too fun.

By Nestor Watach


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