Conte does little to ease Tottenham fears with dour response to Aston Villa loss

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Conte does little to ease Tottenham fears with dour response to Aston Villa loss
Conte does little to ease Tottenham fears with dour response to Aston Villa loss

Antonio Conte has admitted Tottenham may miss out on a top-four finish after their 2-0 home loss to Aston Villa on New Year's Day.

Spurs were humbled on their own patch thanks to goals from Emiliano Buendia and Douglas Luiz. The disappointing result leaves Conte's side fifth in the Premier League table, two points behind rivals Manchester United in fourth having played a game more.

To make matters worse for Tottenham, Liverpool in sixth will leapfrog them if they win their game in hand. The Reds have won four consecutive league games, while fellow top-four candidates Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle and Manchester United are in good form.

As such, Conte is worried about his team's campaign. He told BBC Sport: "I want to be honest, I want to be very clear. I have said this to the club, I have said my opinions. The fans deserve the best. Maybe to stay in fifth is the best. Maybe sixth, seventh, fifth or four is the best."

Much was expected of Tottenham this season after Conte led them to a fourth-place finish last term, ahead of bitter rivals Arsenal. That completed a remarkable turnaround for Spurs, who were eighth in the table when Conte was appointed in November 2021.

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Tottenham strengthened in the summer by signing the likes of Ivan Perisic, Fraser Forster, Yves Bissouma, Richarlison and Djed Spence on permanent deals. Clement Lenglet was also brought in on loan from Barcelona, while Cristian Romero's loan deal was made permanent.

Conte does little to ease Tottenham fears with dour response to Aston Villa lossAntonio Conte is worried about Tottenham's form this season (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

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Despite this, Tottenham have failed to impress this term. They've suffered defeats by Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle, Liverpool and Villa - winning just four Premier League games since September - while Nottingham Forest dumped them out of the EFL Cup.

Spurs are still in the Champions League after topping a modest group containing Eintracht Frankfurt, Sporting Lisbon and Marseille. They have been drawn against Serie A champions AC Milan in the last 16, although few are backing them to go far in the tournament.

Therefore, it's no surprise that confidence is low. Conte added: "We have to know that our life is this. We have to fight every game for one point or for three points. This is the truth, especially when you are without two or three important players and have difficulties.

"We have different characteristics. We don't have many players who are really good to beat the man. We don't have many creative players in our team. For sure today was really difficult to find space in the first half.

"I'm sure that if we don't concede the [first] goal, we could win the game instead. The goal that we conceded killed us in confidence and in many situations for sure. You have to try and improve and develop these players and especially young players to be even stronger."

Tottenham are without Richarlison, Spence, Lucas Moura, Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur due to injuries. Conte said: "We have to try to recover all the [injured] players and then we have to know that in every game we have to fight and show that we are strong. The league will be very difficult for us."

Tom Blow

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