LONDON — Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte has told Mikel Arteta to stop complaining and focus on his team after Spurs smashed open north London’s race for the top four with two games to in the Premier League season.
Spurs’ 3-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium closed the gap on fourth-placed Arsenal to a single point. Arteta fumed in the aftermath over the performance of referee Paul Tierney, who sent off Rob Holding and awarded Conte’s side a penalty for a foul by Cedric on Heung-min Son.
A tempestuous match on the pitch spilled over into the post-match press conferences; as Arteta raged at the officiating Conte was far from impressed with the regularity with which his north London rival seemed to be finding cause for objection. Refusing to address his specific complaints at length, the Arsenal boss said that if he said what he really thought he would “be suspended for six months” but said that Tierney should come out to explain his decisions after “a beautiful game was destroyed today”.
Conte offered precious little sympathy to the defeated coach. Instead he made note of Arteta’s previous complaints over the scheduling of Arsenal’s fixtures and pointing to the postponement of this game, initially scheduled to be played in January before the Gunners successfully secured its postponement due to Premier League COVID-19 regulations despite having just one case in the squad, urging the Spaniard to take the advice of his more experienced counterpart.
“Mikel Arteta is a really good coach,” said Conte. “He has just started to do this job, and I think that I listen to him complain a lot.
“I think that he has to be focused more to his team and not to go to complain because he has just started this work. I think that he has to be calm and try to continue to work because he is very good but to listen to a coach complain a lot of times is not good. It’s OK. The red card for me was clear.
“I think he can become an important coach in the future but in six months, I have listened to him complain a lot. I repeat: it is only advice, nothing else because he is very good.”
Conte himself noted that he had not complained in Tottenham’s last match — a 1-1 draw away to Liverpool — when Fabinho only received a yellow card for a tackle on Son. Though he said that he was not complaining he did also make note of the shortened limited turnaround time his side have before their home against Burnley, which kicks off at midday on Sunday. Arsenal travel to Newcastle United for Monday’s night game.
Asked by CBS Sports which incidents over the past six months he had noted as example of Arteta’s complaining, Conte said: “If you remember he complained about the fixture. It is not good to complain. Arsenal were good to postpone a game in an incredible way with COVID and they only had one player with COVID. I didn’t forget this. If he wants to complain, we have a lot of possibilities to complain.
“Now, today I can complain about why I have to play on Sunday at 12 p.m. and Arsenal has to play on Monday night. And they have one day more rest. We played against Leicester, Liverpool, Arsenal and now after only two days we have to play and we have to play the first game at 12 p.m.”
Arteta is unlikely to drag himself into a war of words, with the Arsenal manager giving every indication in his post-match press conference that he was keen to consign a disastrous night to the history books, at least if he was not allowed to say what he really thought of Tierney.
He said: “[It’s important that] the disappointment doesn’t take over, more than the great opportunity and the beautiful two games that we have added of us and this is where our energy is going to be now.” He may, however, have to prepare for his visit to St James’ Park with limited center backs available to him. Despite his frustrations over Holding’s red card, Arsenal are unable to appeal what was two separate yellow card incidents.
Gabriel, “normally not a player who wants to or asks to come off the pitch”, limped out with a muscular issue whilst Ben White, who has been struggling with a hamstring problem, was not deemed fit enough to enter the fray after Holding was sent off.