IAN LADYMAN: If Antonio Conte stops MOANING then Tottenham might make the top four… plus, why ambitious Leeds had to give Marcelo Bielsa the boot
- The fourth Champions League spot is there for anyone half-decent to take it
- A ticket into next season’s competition would open a few doors for Spurs
- It would give Conte bargaining power when it comes to chairman Daniel Levy
Antonio Conte said after Tottenham beat Leeds that he wanted the performance to be a starting point for his time at the club. It is unlikely to turn out that way.
Conte’s tenure already seems set in a destructive cycle of inconsistent football and wild outbursts pointing to his own unhappiness. If he stays at the club beyond this season it will be a surprise.
All of which seems to be a great shame, for if Conte would only stand still and stop shouting at the world for a moment he would realise that opportunity actually presents itself.
Spurs are in the hunt for a Champions League spot but Antonio Conte seems far from happy
Anybody who has seen teams like Manchester United and Arsenal play this season, for example, would see that standards outside the top three of the Premier League are not particularly high. The fourth Champions League spot is there for anybody half decent enough to take it — and that includes Tottenham.
A ticket into next season’s competition would open a few doors for Spurs and would provide Conte with a little bargaining power when it comes to talking to chairman Daniel Levy about transfer funds. It would also increase his chances of keeping Harry Kane at the club.
It is nights like the one at Turf Moor that continue to hold back the modern Tottenham Hotspur
But instead of focusing on a single and entirely achievable objective, Conte continues to see injustice and unfairness everywhere.
He sees only problems and while all this goes on, his team is allowed to squeeze in a wretched defeat by Burnley in between big wins at Manchester City and Leeds.
It is nights like the one at Turf Moor that continue to hold back the modern Tottenham and the responsibility for that lies squarely with the manager. Amid the din and the drama of his own protestations, Conte continues to do his own job only moderately well.
Not everybody will have noticed this — but you can bet that Levy will have.
Ambitious Leeds had to give Bielsa the boot
Just before Christmas, a delegation from Leeds United travelled to California to visit the stadium occupied by the San Francisco 49ers NFL franchise.
The Levi’s Stadium is one of the most remarkable in the world of sport and Leeds hope to take some of the ideas that went into building it when they eventually redevelop and expand their own Elland Road ground.
Leeds are part-owned by the 49ers these days. The Americans have a 44 per cent stake and are expected eventually to own the club outright. One of their presidents, Paraag Marathe, has sat on the Leeds board since 2018.
Leeds were right to sack manager Marcelo Bielsa as the club is in freefall and facing relegation
Marathe has spoken before of his plans for Leeds. He wants to rebuild the Yorkshire club from inside and out and it is safe to assume he has absolutely no wish to do that from the relative obscurity of the Championship.
This, in short, is why Marcelo Bielsa had to be sacked. Despite all that he has done at Leeds, Bielsa’s team have been a disappointment this season and are in freefall.
Consider the competition to escape the second tier next season. Norwich, almost certainly. Maybe Burnley and Watford. Maybe even Brentford or Newcastle.
Leeds can not afford to be relegated to the Championship as it is tougher than ever to go up
Add to that rejuvenated clubs such as Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest.
It will be tougher than ever to win promotion and Leeds simply cannot afford to be involved in it. Not now. Not when plans are being put in place to take such big steps forward.
Bielsa has been a brilliant and talismanic figure in Yorkshire but his fire looked to have burned out. He was failing this season and the consequences were just too great to allow him to fail any longer.