It’s almost impossible to question Conte’s decisions, such is the way he is unconditionally lionized in north London. But we’d be doing ourselves an injustice if we didn’t question his choice to start Spurs’ out-of-practice reserve keeper in Hugo Lloris’ stead.
Upon arriving at the club, Conte selected Lloris to start when Spurs hosted Vitesse in the Europa Conference League. The Italian gaffer wanted to get off to a winning start, thus selecting his first-choice, World Cup-winning keeper.
Many expected Gollini to get the nod in that match. Conte’s decision, unintentional as it was, showed a perceived lack of faith in his unproven keeper. Yesterday’s choice to go with Gollini wasn’t down to any sudden newfound belief in his reserve keeper’s ability.
It was merely a case of wanting to have a fresh Lloris for forthcoming Premier League fixtures. This is what Conte said about his decision:
“Only because we have to play many games in the next 10 days and also three important games in the league and before my arrival Gollini played every game in the cup competions – in the Europa Conference League and the Carabao Cup.”
A pivotal six pointer against bitter rivals Arsenal lies in wait, the winner of which will take pole position in the battle for the all-coveted fourth spot. That alone is reason enough to back Conte’s decision.
Based on the information at his disposal, he made the right call. Sometimes tough, high-profile, ostensibly controversial decisions pan out, other times they don’t.
Gollini’s mishap on Chelsea’s corner allowed the away side to score the all-important opening goal. Antonio Rüdiger beat the 26-year-old to the aerial ball, with Gollini mistiming his jump and whiffing on an attempted punch.
That goal, by all intents and purposes, put the tie to bed. Spurs were never going to overturn a three-goal deficit against such a stingy, well-organized Blues defence.
Conte would be the first to admit that his decision to start Gollini backfired. But if he had to do it all over again, he would have made the exact same decision. The result of the choice, no matter how unfavourable, doesn’t change the process of making it.
It’s easy in hindsight, based on the fact that Gollini cost Spurs any chance at a historic comeback, to say Conte made the wrong decision in leaving Lloris on the bench. But with all pre-match factors taken into consideration, the contrary is true.
And Conte won’t regret the decision, nor should he be criticized for having the conviction to make it in the first place.