LONDON (REUTERS) - Being manager of Tottenham Hotspur is not doing much for Antonio Conte’s blood pressure judging by his manic presence in the technical area as his team suffered a 3-2 defeat by Southampton on Wednesday (Feb 9) to dent their hopes of a top-four finish.
The Italian serial winner, who took charge in November and has brought about an upswing in the club’s fortunes, is not used to teams throwing away leads but even when his side twice got ahead against Southampton, they never looked in control.
Conte celebrated like a mad man when Son Heung-min put Tottenham 2-1 ahead in the 70th minute, but looked totally deflated at the end after headed goals by Mohamed Elyounoussi and Che Adams earned Southampton a deserved win.
Tottenham could have moved to within a point of fourth-placed West Ham United with three games in hand had they won. Instead, their second successive league defeat left them in seventh place with 36 points, four points behind West Ham, and Conte knows that a huge opportunity was lost.
In reality, however, his side were comprehensively outplayed in the first half despite taking the lead through a Jan Bednarek own goal and if any team looked like they were top-four contenders, it was 10th-placed Southampton.
Even during that unbeaten run, Conte spoke of the huge amount of work required. Wednesday’s display showed why.
“We made many mistakes in the first half, important mistakes. In the second half, we did well, scored and then we have to be better to defend,” Conte told reporters.
“I know very well we are going to struggle to get three points. We are improving in many aspects but we are still too emotional. We have to improve because if we want to grow as a team and try to be competitive, the first thing you have to improve is to be stable, not be up and down.”
Conte said his players lacked the sort of “game management” he was used to while winning silverware at Chelsea, Juventus and Inter Milan.
“This is a situation we have to improve,” he said. “The effort was maximum, I cannot say I didn’t see the right commitment. I have seen the maximum commitment.
“For this reason, we have to try to avoid this defeat. We made many, many mistakes, especially with the ball.
“I think this type of situation created a bit of instability, mental instability in my team.”
With games in hand of the teams above them, Tottenham are still in a strong position to challenge for a top-four finish but they do not look convincing and Conte knows they have to wise up if they are to stay in the hunt.
“We have a long, long road in front of us,” he said..