axe to fall | 

Matt Doherty to be left on fringes after Spurs' humiliating defeat by NS Mura

Tottenham Hotspur's Lucas Moura comes on as a substitute to replace Matt Doherty in Slovenia on Thursday night. Photo: Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters

Tottenham Hotspur's Lucas Moura comes on as a substitute to replace Matt Doherty in Slovenia on Thursday night. Photo: Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters

Sam DeanTelegraph Media Group Limited

Antonio Conte has warned his Tottenham Hotspur players that he is watching their every move and preparing to speak to the club about which members of his squad will be good enough to fulfil his demands.

Conte admitted “the level of Tottenham is not so high” following their humiliating defeat by NS Mura in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night, and also hinted that he will want reinforcements in the January transfer window.

The Italian said that hard work and commitment are sometimes “not enough” for players as he declared the need for characters with the “right mentality” in north London.

Conte felt compelled to warn supporters that he is not a “magician” who can instantly fix Tottenham’s problems following their disastrous showing in Slovenia, and told his players he is now assessing their abilities ahead of the January transfer window.

“For sure, we need players with the right mentality and with the quality,” said Conte. “Players that deserve to play for Tottenham and aspire to be competitive, to fight for the shirt, to win something. For sure, we need this.

“I am making my evaluations and then I will speak to the club, but I am ready to continue to work in this way. But it is important that we have to know that the situation is not simple. We need time, we need passion, we need work and I am here for this.

“It does not mean that we have to change a lot – I am ready to do what the club wants to do. But now, the situation is very clear.

“I am working with the team for three or four weeks and I want to tell you that I have found a great commitment, a great ability. There is the will, the desire to improve, but now more time has passed and I am making my evaluations directly. Not through the TV or through other people, but directly.

“We need to improve a lot to reduce the gap with the top teams. I am not scared to face this situation, but it is important that everybody understands.”

Tottenham’s defeat in Slovenia means that they cannot finish top of their Conference League group. If they finish in second place, they will have to navigate an extra two-legged play-off in February.

Harry Kane apologised to the fans for the performance, and admitted that it was an “unacceptable” showing from the team. “We made some immature mistakes and got punished for them and that’s what happens in Europe,” said Kane.

“All we can say is sorry to the travelling fans, sorry to the fans back home. We just have to keep working hard and turn things around.”

Conte chose Thursday’s game to give the likes of Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele, Matt Doherty and Ryan Sessegnon their first starts under his management. Alli, Ndombele and Doherty were all substituted in the second half, while Sessegnon was shown an early red card for two lunging tackles.

Conte is now expected to choose a similar line-up to his previous Premier League matches when Spurs travel to Turf Moor to play Burnley tomorrow, with players such as Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura set to return to the team.

The players with it all to prove to Conte:

Dele Alli: Started against NS Mura in the front three, but looked uncomfortable with the role and offered little attacking threat. He had previously only played two competitive minutes for Conte.

Harry Winks: Played against Leeds United in the Premier League last weekend, having fallen out of favour under previous manager Nuno Espirito Santo. He is behind both Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the midfield pecking order.

Matt Doherty: Struggled against Mura, despite appearing to be well-suited to playing as a wing-back. He is yet to find his best form since his move from Wolves and is unlikely to feature in the Premier League any time soon.

Joe Rodon: A series of superb performances for Wales have not been enough to convince Nuno or Conte that he is worthy of a Premier League start. He was substituted in the second half against Mura, with Eric Dier coming on instead.

Giovani Lo Celso : A frustrating player who has plenty of talent but no obvious place in this Tottenham team. Does he fit into Conte’s 3-4-3 formation? Can he produce quality on a more consistent basis?

Steven Bergwijn: Started the first three league games of the season but has hardly been seen since after struggling with injury. He certainly has the ability to be an effective attacker for Tottenham, but he is yet to show it regularly.

Tanguy Ndombele: Was one of the few players offering any real thrust against Mura, and is clearly one of the most talented individuals in the squad. It is hard to see any other side being able to afford him, and Conte will know that he could be a powerful asset.


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