Antonio Conte has hit back at Tottenham fans calling for Djed Spence to start by claiming he is ‘not stupid’ and adding that the player is ‘not ready’ for match action. His comments come straight after the club’s poor performance Saturday’s 3-1 north London derby defeat to Arsenal where current first-choice right wing-back Emerson Royal had a poor performance which culminated in a red card for a stupid challenge on Gabriel Martinelli.
Spence arrived during the transfer window in a £13million deal from the north east club after he spent a hugely impressive season on loan at Nottingham Forest. There had been high hopes that he would come straight into the starting lineup given the Lilywhites struggles in the right-wing-back position however he has been behind Emerson Royal, Matt Doherty and Ivan Perisic in the pecking order.
The right-back has found his match action severely limited, seeing just one minute of competitive match action since the start of the campaign. Some fans have been calling him to be given a starting place from the off, especially after Emerson’s poor performance at the Emirates. However, Conte has hit back at his own supporters claiming the England under-21 international is not ready to take part at this moment in time.
He said: “The fans have to be fans. They can think anything but I see every day the training sessions. If they trust me, they trust me, but the choices are mine. If I don’t decide to pick a player, it’s because he’s maybe not ready.
“We are talking about a young player with a good prospect, but I repeat I try to pick the best team. Also Doherty last season played every game. Now I’m not seeing him in the right way to start the game. I’m not stupid, I don’t want to lose. I try to put the best team, to pick the best team. If they trust me it’s ok, if they don’t trust me then I’m the coach and I need to take the best decision for Tottenham.”
The Italian was speaking ahead of Tottenham’s Champions League fixture with Eintracht Frankfurt tomorrow as the club looks to overcome the disappointment of the weekend’s performance. The result saw them fall four points behind their biggest rivals, helping the Gunners to solidify their position at the top of the Premier League table.
They also need to get back on track in Europe having been defeated 2-0 in their last match against Sporting Lisbon.
Conte has also received criticism for sticking so rigidly to a 3-4-3 formation this season, something which supporters believe left them overrun in midfield at the Emirates. The Italian conceded this was a system that the club could utilise given the players at his disposal.
“With this type of players and this squad we can play with these two systems, 3-4-3 and a 3-5-2. Also, Bissouma who is a good player who can play with the two midfielders and the two strikers can be Sonny and Kane or Richarlison and Kane.”
It appears unlikely that Spurs fans will get there wish anytime soon with Conte pouring cold water on Spence’s first-team prospects. It is therefore likely Doherty and Perisic will battle for the position in the coming weeks as Emerson serves his suspension.
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