Paul Merson has criticised Tottenham’s decision to sack Antonio Conte – who ‘needed support’ after losing three close friends earlier this season.
Conte was sacked last Sunday, eight days on from his side’s capitulation against Southampton.
Tottenham were leading 3-1 at St Mary’s late on before ex-Arsenal man Theo Walcott and James Ward-Prowse scored to earn the Saints a valuable point.
Conte lost his head during his post-match press conference, furiously slamming his “selfish” players, insisting they do not perform as a team.
It has been a turbulent campaign for the Italian head coach, who has had to deal with the deaths of his fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone and close friends Gianluca Vialli and Sinisa Mihajlovic.
On top of this, in February, Conte underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder – all while living in London away from his family.
The former Chelsea manager’s outburst has been well-documented and a leading sports performance coach said it could have been a “backdrop” from all of this.
This is something that former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson thinks played a part in Conte’s angry press conference, claiming that the decision to sack him was ‘wrong’.
‘Call me crazy but I’m not sure it was the right decision for Tottenham to get rid of Antonio Conte,’ Merson wrote for the Daily Star.
‘You’ve got to remember he lost a very good friend in his fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone and he also lost a very good friend in Gianluca Vialli. I think both of those took their toll on Conte, we should ask the bloke how he is feeling. He needed support.
‘There was a massive build-up of emotion and pressure and he just exploded after the 3-3 draw at Southampton. Other people may do it in different ways.
‘I did it enough times when I was manager at Walsall. I would go nuts at the players after a game before returning to my office and I would say to myself ‘why have I done that?”
Merson also criticised Spurs chairman Daniel Levy for giving Conte’s assistant Cristian Stellini the role of interim head coach until the end of the season.
‘What I don’t get about sacking Conte is that they’ve now kept his assistant Cristian Stellini in charge,’ he continued.
‘The robotic football was the biggest issue for the fans so in my view, it makes no sense to stick with someone who was a staple of the Conte era.
‘It was only four weeks ago that Tottenham were beaten 1-0 at Wolves and Stellini was saying ‘we need Conte back’.
‘I thought Tottenham would hand Ryan Mason the job until the end of the season or bring in a new permanent manager – I really didn’t see this coming.
‘The pessimist in me believes the changes are just a cost-cutting exercise.
‘Appointing a new manager would have been a real statement of intent and would have rallied the players and fanbase for the final stretch of the season but this is Spurs, they do things differently.
‘The fact Mauricio Pochettino hasn’t been given the role tells me the club aren’t set on bringing him back.
‘Julian Nagelsmann is a popular choice but it feels very reactionary because he is now out of work following his sacking at Bayern Munich.’
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