Antonio Conte had a lot to say In his press conference after, after Tottenham Hotspur1-1 draw against West Ham Wednesday evening. He was mostly critical of VAR – we’ll get to that – but he also addressed one of the biggest criticisms leveled against him after this match on why he decided to have only one substitute while West Ham manager David Moyes played five.
The difference was very stark. Spurs obviously didn’t play very well, but West Ham’s submarines made the home side look remarkably refreshed in the second half of Spurs. Conte’s only sub was Richarlison in the 75th minute, and it was notable that the Brazilian was probably the brightest striker for Tottenham throughout the match.
When asked why he hasn’t succumbed to more players, Conte said he was concerned about changing the team’s dynamic. But in the same answer he also said that he is definitely planning to rotate his team for next Saturday’s home game against Fulham.
“I think at that moment I didn’t want to change the balance of the team. Skippy was our first time with us. He only trained with us for two days and I wanted to give him the possibility to be on the bench and breathe the air and risk playing because Hogberg had a really bad tackle. Then I wanted to make one change. Only with Richie because at that moment we needed strong energy and energy.
“In other situations, I prefer to keep the balance at that moment and also because in two days (sic) we have to play against Fulham and for sure I will take turns. My players know very well, but they are ready, and we are ready to face many games in a row in two or three days. “.
We don’t know what this rotation will look like. I think Richarlison will make his first Premier League debut as a Tottenham player. We’ll likely see Ryan Sessegnon coming in at left-back, and maybe we’ll see Matt Doherty on the other side. We also haven’t yet seen Barcelona loanee Clement Lenglet play a minute for Spurs, so maybe that’s also an option. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the injured duo of Christian Romero and Oliver Skipp at least for part of the match as well.
But the bulk of Conte’s anger has been directed at VAR. Tottenham were notably denied a first-half penalty that could have won the match after match official Aaron Cresswell whistled for a handball in the penalty area. However, after a very lengthy review, Peter Banks was called to watch the incident on the pitch screen, and eventually conceded the penalty as the ball bounced off Cresswell’s face before hitting his arm.
Conte was reluctant to criticize Banks directly and even said he would never criticize the official’s decision on the pitch, but he had some very harsh words about VAR technology as it was implemented in England.
“It’s also hard to explain because you know very well that I don’t like commenting on refereeing decisions. I didn’t do this in England. But today I would like to comment on the decision because it was the right decision, and I told him at the end of the first half but with a smile, not in an argumentative way. But with a smile , you said you made the right decision, and then VAR called you, and the VAR definitely embarrassed the umpire because making him change the right decision was really, really weird.
“But for coaches, players accepting a referee’s mistake during a match is a good thing – because sometimes the referee’s decision can be both positive and negative. At the end of the season, there is always a balance. But to accept this kind of situation…
“Don’t forget the Nottingham Forest game, the player went with his hand and hit the ball, a clear put, a red card, no. Today it was clear. I know the rule. The problem is when there are people behind a screen with the video. They have a lot of time – they took a lot of Time – I also listen to the crowd whistles. The fans in England don’t like VAR, do they? That’s very, very clear but I think they’re right. Because if these are the decisions, it’s unbelievable. Or they don’t know the rules.
“This is not the first time because I have seen many times, situations with VAR, the same offside situation in another match because there is one finger or the line is missing. In England it is better to cut VAR for the public and for us. For me, for the players, For every coach, every player in all the clubs, you accept the referee’s decision, whether it’s positive or negative, because these are human errors.
“With the screen, you see the situation, and it could be human error. I don’t want to think of anything. But I repeat, I am really disappointed, these people, they stay behind the screen, they have to pay more attention, they have to study, I don’t know … in England, I’ve spoken with the other managers, and no one is happy with this situation.”
The crazy thing about this particular call is that you know that if the same situation happens in a different match with different referees, the call can be called differently where the penalty stands. This suggests to me that while the VAR decision may have been the right one in the letter of the law, it means that the law itself is stupid and bad. Conte’s view, and I agree with him, is that VAR devalues the game in the pursuit of perfection, while the rules themselves are not perfect. And until this ambiguity is cleared, we will continue to encounter such idealistic situations, but they are not good.
Tottenham remain in third place and are undefeated in the Premier League by five matches.