Ousted from the Champions League without as much as a whimper, Tottenham’s insipid and toothless worst followed a similar script.
Tottenham supporters have been here before, far too many times.
But, unfortunately, the uninventive, languid performance at home against AC Milan will become the defining moment of yet another trophy-less, forlorn campaign.
Last night’s performance mirrored Antonio Conte’s outwardly apparent disillusionment.
It was clear that even the gaffer was resigned to defeat, and the players followed suit, unable to create even a moment of inspiration.
Harry Kane’s injury-time header provided a too-little-too-late false sense of hope.
Something significant has to change as supporters are tired of calling for Daniel Levy’s head, knowing their collective voices will continually fall on deaf ears.
The same cannot be said for Conte, who now, more than ever, looks like a dead man walking.
Like Jose Mourinho before him, the players and fans have grown noticeably tired of committing to a thankless, draining, unenterprising, and, worst of all, unsuccessful brand of football.
Conte is a brilliant maestro when he arrives at a club, another attribute he shares with Mourinho. Few are better when he is fully committed and his heart is in it.
Unfortunately, Conte has lost his will. And the players have caught their manager’s contagious listlessness.
I’m unsure whether watching his side’s pallid display or an extended recovery from surgery was more culpable for his ashen complexion.
FA Cup loss to Sheffield United the catalyst for Spurs’ recent woes
It’s hard to explain or excuse what has transpired in recent weeks, with Ground Zero of the current three-game scoreless streak, a 1-0 defeat at Bramall Lane, the catalyst to Spurs’ catastrophic unravelling.
One hopes that arrogance isn’t to blame for the decision to start a weakened side in the FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United.
Surely the manager of a side that hasn’t won a trophy in 15 years understands the importance of beating a Championship outfit in the latter stages of the FA Cup.
As if Spurs supporters need a reminder, Conte’s decision to rotate personnel handed Sheffield United a date with Blackburn in the quarterfinal.
That could have, should have, been us, another tune Spurs supporters have heard far too often.
While Conte wasn’t on the touchline for that abject display, make no mistake that he was responsible for selecting the starting 11.
The FA Cup represented Tottenham’s best chance to end their 15-year barren run.
But once again, we carried ourselves with a false sense of superiority, belittling the competition, which was seen as nothing more by Tottenham’s coaching staff than a training exercise for fringe players.
Tottenham is not in a position to throw away golden opportunities to win a trophy, no matter the competition. It’s a condemnation of Conte for him not to realize that.
Where does Tottenham go from here?
Another season will pass without Tottenham winning a trophy. That much is clear, decided, and unequivocal.
But will Tottenham be able to dust themselves off and hold on to fourth position and a place in next season’s Champions League?
Liverpool is trending in the right direction and, albeit sneakily, are just three points adrift of Spurs with a match in hand.
Conte appears disinterested, his heart ostensibly set on returning to his homeland.
Unfortunately, that checked-out mentality won’t instill the players or supporters with a morsel of confidence.
The lack of enterprise and recent absence of offensive ingenuity is another cause for palpable concern.
The looming question is whether Conte is the man to lead Tottenham to fourth spot, a must-have to avoid an unmitigated disaster.
Countless supporters are calling for his head, hoping Tottenham appoints Mauricio Pochettino to return and revive a disconsolate, disconnected, and frankly broken club.
Whatever eventuates, one thing is clear: Tottenham supporters deserve better and have done for years.
Seeing Arsenal on the cusp of achieving unexpected greatness only amplifies the displeasure on the right side of north London.