Conte made clear in his comments he was not talking about tactics, strategy, or even physical ability; rather, he was questioning the heart and effort of his team, as he should. That said, it may be the tactics that are making the team lose heart.
We saw under Mourinho before him and again now under Conte that Tottenham Hotspur is not a great team parking the bus against lesser competition.
Yes, if Spurs are playing Manchester City or Liverpool, and they park the bus, defend their hearts out, and win, it is something to be proud of. However, when the team sits deep against a bottom-half club, let alone the worst team in the division, something is wrong, and for this, Conte was wrong on Saturday, during and after the game.
Tottenham brought the results upon themselves Saturday
Up 3-1 on a team you have already beaten 4-1 previously in the season with 20 minutes left; any team I’ve been on is thinking, can we get five today? Well, not Tottenham Hotspur.
Instead of putting their foot on their throats and seeing out the win by being the aggressor, Spurs dropped into a 5-4-1 formation and let the worst team in the league take the game to them.
Dropping deep like that against a team like Southampton is not a strategy for success; it is running away from it and playing scared.
So while Conte is questioning his players’ hearts, I think we need to question his a bit. Why is Tottenham running and hiding, trying to preserve a two-goal lead and seeing out a victory?
Spurs can learn from Arsenal.
Arsenal was in a similar situation on Sunday, where they were up 3-1 in the second half against Crystal Palace. Instead of opening the door and giving Palace a chance, Arsenal controlled the ball, scored again, and ended the Eagle’s hope.
Spurs were not trying to hold off Real Madrid in the Champions League Final Saturday; they were seeking a professional win against a bottom-half side. Instead, they hid behind the ball and got what they deserved.
Maybe again, Conte was right; Tottenham’s players are afraid of success, but with his decisions on Saturday, so too was Conte.