EPL

Conte claims Tottenham need 'many years' to reach the level of Chelsea

By Sports Desk January 23, 2022

Antonio Conte claimed Tottenham are "many years" from the level of Chelsea following Sunday's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva goals condemned Spurs to a fourth defeat of the season against their London rivals, their away league run against the Blues now standing at one win in 32.

Conte's side lost both legs of the EFL Cup semi-final to Chelsea and have now gone six consecutive games without scoring against the European champions, the first time in their history they have ever failed to find the net in as many matches against the same opponent.

Conte has spoken previously of the need for Spurs to strengthen if they are to challenge the top sides, despite having led them on a nine-game unbeaten run in the top flight after taking over from Nuno Espirito Santo in November.

After their latest loss to Chelsea, which cost them the chance to move into the top four, the former Inter boss suggested it would take many transfer windows to build a squad capable of matching the best.

"I don't like to lose. To comment on a defeat is always difficult for me," he told Sky Sports. "But to have nine games in a row without defeat was important, and in this moment, the gap with the other teams, like Chelsea, it's a really important game.

"I'm proud of the effort of my players. We tried to do everything, but sometimes it's not enough, especially when you're playing against a team like this: a starting XI of strong players; on the bench, around the club, there are other players. There is a big difference between us and a top team."

When asked about strengthening the squad before the transfer window closes, he said: "I repeat, this is not the right moment. The club know very well what I think. There is not one transfer market to close the gap.

"In the last five years, this gap became very, very big. Now, it's not simple to find the solution in a short time. I'm only focused on the players to work. We have four months to try to give everything, but if we think we resolve the situation with the transfer market, it's not the reality.

"You need many years. For sure, we have to start, and there is a point to start. For many years, the quality of the squad decreased instead of improved."

Spurs thought they had taken the lead on Sunday when Harry Kane finished from Steven Bergwijn's cross, but the goal was disallowed for a push in the back of Thiago Silva.

"I know it's difficult to comment, and I don't want to comment on the referee's decision, but to disallow this goal in England was incredible," said Conte.

"But, I repeat, the referee tried to make the best decision."

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel was also surprised the goal was ruled out at the time, but he had nothing but praise for the effort of his players as they ended a four-game run without a Premier League win.

"We were working extremely hard for it, it was a tough match, but I'm very happy because the effort was outstanding and it was a deserved win," he said. "It's so hard to create chances against them, but I think we were relentless and kept on believing.

"The table is the table. In the end, it's our responsibility to prove ourselves every third day. Now we have a break, and it was important to go into this break with a victory. There is no substitution for a win, and for the feeling. You cannot produce it artificially, so we needed this, but we needed also to do things better and keep on believing."

Related items

  • Red Bull closing on Ferrari as F1 returns to Europe ahead of Spanish GP Red Bull closing on Ferrari as F1 returns to Europe ahead of Spanish GP

    The drivers' and constructors' championships both heating up as Formula One makes its seasonal return to Europe seems fitting. 

    After legs in the Middle East, Australia and North America, Red Bull are comprehensively in the fight against Ferrari heading into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

    With consecutive race wins at the Emilia Romagna GP and Miami GP following DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Max Verstappen has closed the gap to standings leader Charles Leclerc to 19 points.

    After coming perilously close to such an error at Imola, a single mistake or DNF for Leclerc and a full points haul for Verstappen could see momentum in the drivers' championship completely shift.

    Barcelona is a happy hunting ground for Verstappen, who claimed victory there in 2016 in only his first drive for Red Bull.

    It could continue if the reigning world champion secures pole position, having converted 14 career poles into 10 race victories, the best rate of any driver in F1 history.

    Meanwhile, with Sergio Perez also contributing with solid driving and good race pace on Sunday, Red Bull have cut the gap in the constructors' standings to only six points.

    Only in Monaco have the team collected more points than in Spain, with 332 compared to 312, but that could change this weekend.

    With a fifth consecutive top-four finish, Perez could equal his best such run of results, recorded between Turkey and Qatar last season.

    Ferrari set for upgrades

    The gravity of Red Bull's resurgence could arguably be crystallised in the likelihood Ferrari will have upgrades installed for this weekend after only tinkering and researching on race weekends to this point.

    Leclerc will be looking to lead from the front, with all four of his race wins in F1 coming from pole position.

    Carlos Sainz will also be hoping for a strong finish at his home grand prix, where he has accumulated the most points (40) in his career alongside Monaco.

    Can Mercedes challenge?

    While they might not be a championship contender in either the drivers' or constructors' standings, Mercedes have at least shown improved performance to potentially challenge for podiums and race wins.

    The Silver Arrows come into this contest having taken the past nine pole positions in Barcelona, and they will likely need to make it another to challenge on Sunday.

    Lewis Hamilton is still waiting to surpass Michael Schumacher for the most consecutive seasons with a race win.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
    2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 85
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 66
    4. George Russell (Mercedes) 59 
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 53

    Constructors

    1. Ferrari 157
    2. Red Bull 151
    3. Mercedes 95
    4. McLaren 46
    5. Alfa Romeo 31

  • Europa League final: Rangers success surely hinges on halting Eintracht's flying wing-backs Europa League final: Rangers success surely hinges on halting Eintracht's flying wing-backs

    In a pre-match news conference lacking much talk of the opposition, there was one question that stood out in that regard ahead of Rangers' Europa League final clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

    Gers captain James Tavernier was pointedly asked for his opinion on Eintracht wing-back Filip Kostic, given the pair are likely to see a lot of each other on the flank they'll share.

    "Obviously I respect how he's been playing, he's a top player," Tavernier said. "But, I've just got to bring the best version of myself when the game starts and try to cause him all the problems, try to make him deal with me for the majority of the game. That's all I can really do."

    Tavernier's response didn't offer any particularly great insight, but his mentality of wanting to cause Kostic as many problems was at least another identifier of how their duel could be such a key battle.

    Of course, it's worth pointing out that Tavernier, a right-back, remarkably heads into Wednesday's game as the Europa League's top scorer on seven goals, and realistically – or, unrealistically – only a hat-trick from Eintracht's Daichi Kamada can prevent the Englishman from at least ending the season with a share of the competition's golden boot.

    Further to that, he netted 19 times over the course of the 2020-21 season and could yet match that figure this term – he also has an impressive assists haul of 17.

    If it needs reiterating, he's a huge contributor for Rangers in the final third.

    So, given he's technically a right-back, there's obviously an element of Tavernier needing to be solid defensively on Wednesday, but some might suggest it's even more essential he's as sharp as ever going forward as that would not only give Rangers a credible threat on the right, but it would potentially keep Kostic occupied in a deeper position.

    Granted, Eintracht's set-up with a back three should always ensure they have an extra man to cover for Kostic's runs forward, while the two attacking midfielders supporting Rafael Borre up top often occupy narrow, deeper berths in order to maximise the space out wide for their biggest threat.

    Yet there's always the possibility of an overload in behind Kostic if the conditions are right, such is his attacking influence.

    After all, the frequency at which Kostic delivers into the box is frankly astonishing. This season, he has been the executor of 519 crosses and corners, 140 more than any other player in the top five leagues – Trent Alexander-Arnold is second with 379.

    Kostic's 78 successful crosses from open play is also a season-high. Of course, you would expect him to lead the way given he's attempted so many more than anyone else, but his 26.8 per cent accuracy (crosses/corners) is right in line with the average (among players with at least 100 attempted). That in itself is impressive given his greater frequency.

    Another way of looking at it is, he is producing one accurate open-play cross every 45.4 minutes. While that may not sound incredible on the face of it, his 12.4 expected assists (xA) is the 10th highest among players in the top five leagues, highlighting just how much of a weapon he is in terms of his creative quality.

    So, while he may be classed as a wing-back in terms of his position on a team line-up graphic, the Serbian is there for his attacking tendencies.

    A cursory glance at his map of open-play chances created proves that point.

    But Rangers must also be aware of the danger posed on the opposite flank.

    Ansgar Knauff has been one of the stars of Eintracht's journey to the final, with the 20-year-old becoming something of a revelation in the past few months.

    As recently as mid-January he was turning out for Borussia Dortmund's second team in the third tier. Then he joined Eintracht on loan and has since scored important Europa League goals against Barcelona and West Ham.

    His impact on the road to Seville has been significant, with his brilliant athleticism, bravery and confidence on the ball making him a real asset on the right-hand side.

    Before Knauff's arrival, Eintracht were rather lopsided, with their other options on the right far from convincing. Sure, Kostic remains their main outlet, but Knauff's emergence has provided them with another – albeit stylistically different – threat on the other side, giving them greater balance.

    Across all competitions since his Eintracht debut in early February, only Kostic (5.6) and Jesper Lindstrom (2.6) have amassed better xA records than Knauff, who is also fifth to those two, Borre and Kamada in terms of xA and xG (expected goals) combined.

    He may not be their deadliest weapon, but he's proven he can offer them a lot, and his team-high 61 dribble attempts in that period proves he's happy to make his markers work for their money.

    Oliver Glasner's team is full of neat, technical players and is also blessed with fine work ethic, as it would need to be to play their high-pressing football.

    But their width and desire to attack from the flanks is fundamental to how they play – while it may be easier said than done, limiting their effectiveness out wide would go a long way to ending Rangers' 50-year European trophy drought.

  • Rumour Has It: Claims Messi to buy into Inter Miami in 2023 Rumour Has It: Claims Messi to buy into Inter Miami in 2023

    Lionel Messi's much-publicised move to Paris Saint-Germain has not gone as planned.

    Messi's departure from Barcelona to join Kylian Mbappe and Neymar has not translated into European silverware despite lofty expectations in the French capital.

    While the 34-year-old's future at PSG might be in doubt, he reportedly appears to be setting himself up for life post-football.

    TOP STORY – MESSI TO BUY INTO INTER MIAMI   

    Messi will acquire 35 per cent of shares in Inter Miami and the join the MLS franchise when his contract expires at PSG, according to DIRECTV.

    The Argentina international made a very public and emotional departure from Barcelona last year, before signing a two-year deal at PSG.

    Despite six goals and 13 assists in 25 Ligue 1 appearances this season, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has not propelled PSG to European success.

    While Messi has previously confirmed his desire to play in the MLS and live in the United States, it will reportedly eventuate after his deal expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.

    However, Sport has disputed the report, saying Messi's camp insist "the player has not defined his future".

    ROUND-UP

    – The Mirror is reporting 20-year-old Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is a target for Manchester United, with talks already believed to have taken place over his transfer.

    – Juventus have offered Paul Pogba, who will be available on a free transfer when his United deal expires, a three-year-deal and a €7.5million annual salary, according to Goal.

    – In further anticipated player turnover at Old Trafford, Roma coach Jose Mourinho wants to bring in 33-year-old Nemanja Matic on a free transfer, per Calciomercato.

    – Manchester City are preparing a £30m move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Marc Cucurella, the Daily Mail reports.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.