Jamie Redknapp has urged Tottenham to back Antonio Conte in the transfer market, but the manager admits it will take more than one window to improve the quality of the squad.
The gulf between Tottenham and the Premier League title contenders was clear again when Spurs suffered another defeat to Chelsea – this time a 2-0 league defeat on Super Sunday.
Despite a thrilling 3-2 comeback against Leicester in midweek, it demonstrated the need for Tottenham to strengthen their squad as the clock ticks down to the January 31 deadline for the current window.
When asked about the need to improve his team, Conte again reiterated that it will take more than one window to see his squad in a position to challenge the likes of Chelsea.
He said: „This is not the right moment to speak in front of the media. The club know very well what I think and the time that we need to close this gap – there is not one transfer market to close the gap.
„In the last few years, this gap became very, very big and now it is not simple to find a solution in a short time and for this reason, I’m only focused on working with the players until the end. Then, we will see.
„We have four months to try to give everything, but if we think we will solve it with this transfer window, it is not the reality. You need many years, but for sure you have to start and there is a point to start.
„In 14 days we lost three times against Chelsea – maybe there is a different level between us and them. It means they are much stronger than us as a team and a squad, we have to accept this, but only after a performance like tonight.
„We tried everything, but sometimes it is not enough against this type of team. Chelsea are very good and, in this moment, they are in another level compared to us.“
The comments prompted Sky Sports pundit Redknapp to urge his former club to back Conte in the current and upcoming windows, warning that the Italian could leave if he does not feel supported.
„He needs players,“ Redknapp said. „When he came in after Nuno, there must have been some dialogue between him and Daniel Levy about the players he needs.
„He’s now had a couple of months to look at the squad and he’s done a great job getting them into this position.
„There’s a massive gulf between Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool and the rest. But Tottenham are so close to getting top four, which no other manager could have done, but he needs backing. He needs to get players in quickly – two, three, four players in the window and he’s got nine days to do it.
„Daniel Levy is a difficult man to deal with, but if you don’t back [Conte] – looking at his history at Inter Milan – I think he’ll leave the club because you can’t promise and not deliver.
„Tottenham fans must be so frustrated because every year, they watch their team and everything is great with the stadium and training ground – but the team needs a bit of help right now.
„So back him, give him what he needs.“
Keane: If Spurs don’t have CL, who will go there?
Roy Keane also believes Tottenham must support Conte in his bid to improve the squad – and challenge for trophies – but questioned if it was possible in January or if Spurs miss out on Champions League football.
The Sky Sports pundit said: „It’s great having a great coach and a great manager, which no doubt Conte is. But he’s got to have the players.
„It’s all well and good having an agreement with the owner before you take over, but the reality can be slightly different when you get into the job.
„He’s spoken about his experience and he’s not going to throw anybody under the bus, but I guarantee if you spoke to him privately having been at the club a few months, I bet he’s thinking ‘we need a lot of quality players’.
„But the difficulty is, which top players are going to go to Spurs, particularly in the window in January or the summer if they don’t get into the Champions League? The manager might be an attraction, but he’ll be into the last month of his contract, if he’s still there, so it’s a big dilemma.
„Even if he gets the funds, there’s no top-quality players available in January that would want to go to Tottenham.
„He spoke about needing a few transfer windows, but he’s only got a year left as manager so he’s not exactly committed to the long-term project at Tottenham.
„You don’t have to give a manager everything he wants, but you have to give him support. I think that will probably come in the summer because it’s difficult to get brilliant players in January for any club.
„Man United yesterday were under pressure and needed a big result against West Ham and you look at the options the manager has for coming off the bench – Rashford, Cavani, Martial. They’re good options for a manager.
„But Conte today, as good as he is, he was probably looking over his shoulder and thinking ‘this squad is not good enough to get top four’.“
What next for Dele Alli?
Two players that have been absent from the Tottenham squad in recent weeks are Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele. The latter – the club’s record signing – has not featured since being booed by Spurs fans as he trudged off during Tottenham’s 3-1 FA Cup win against Morecambe a few weeks ago.
But Alli’s form remains a mystery, having significantly dropped out of Tottenham’s starting XI under three successive managers in Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and now Conte.
When asked about Alli, the Spurs boss told Sky Sports: „I don’t want to comment on single players and that is for the club to make the best decision. There is also a sporting director, there is a chairman. They take the last decision, so it is right to speak to them, not me.“
But the Sky Sports pundits offered their thoughts on where Alli’s next move should be…
Redknapp: „It makes me sad when I think about Dele Alli because there were a few years when he was the best young player in Europe, he was doing things that were out of this world.
„But something has happened to him. I don’t get it and I don’t understand it. Only Dele knows what’s happened because we can’t keep blaming managers and circumstances. You’ve got to work it out for yourself in the end and it feels like a real shame for me.“
Keane: „I think the kid has lost the eye of the tiger and sometimes you have to let a kid go. That’s the nature of football.
„You’ve done your time here, you’ve lost your way and be good to the kid. Could he go to Newcastle? The fans would love him if he came in.“
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink: „The manager is going to make his decisions – who he can trust and who he sees a future with. Every good manger is going to do that.
„He needs to sell those players to get funds in to get other players that he thinks are going to get him into the top four for now and eventually, if he stays long enough at the club, challenge for the title.
„You’re not going to get Conte to Spurs to just be fifth or sixth or get in Europe – he’s not going to be happy with that. He wants to win things. But you have to give him the tools and if he doesn’t believe in Dele Alli or Ndombele – rightly or wrongly – you have to back him.
„I think he needs to go abroad where nobody knows him. A new start, a clean sheet. There’s too much pressure at the moment and everyone is watching him.“
What do Spurs need?
The Sky Sports trio also offered their thoughts on the key areas that Tottenham need to improve if they are going to start seriously challenging for trophies…
Keane: „Probably someone in the middle of the park who has real quality. Someone with creativity, I think they’re short in there.
Redknapp: „They want a wing-back as well and somebody just to help out. When they haven’t got Son or Kane, you feel like they’re light in that area. Moura does it in bits and pieces but over a long period of time, he’s never really been the answer.
„I agree with Roy, they also need an outstanding midfield, someone who can run the game from the middle of the park.“
Hasselbaink: „I would get a centre-half. Somebody with legs who can run, who can defend who can keep a clean sheet.“