Tottenham hero admits surprise at signing that Conte ‘does not want’

Pep Guardiola reacts to win over Tottenham Hotspurs

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Former Tottenham and England goalkeeper Paul Robinson has theorised that Antonio Conte may have been handed summer signing Djed Spence without his approval after the youngster’s slow start to life in north London. Spence was pivotal in Nottingham Forest’s promotion to the Premier League last season but his career has stalled this term amid serious struggles for game time under Conte. 

The 22-year-old was hot property after spending last campaign on loan at Forest, with whom he featured in 38 Championship matches before gaining promotion. Middlesbrough sanctioned his permanent exit in the summer with Spurs potentially forking out £20million, providing the add-on clauses are met. 

With starting right wing-back Emerson Royal failing to convince at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, many fans expected Spence to slot straight into the starting XI. However, he is yet to start a single senior game for Spurs this term with just a handful of substitute appearances to his name. 

Amid speculation that Conte could look to send the youngster out on loan at some point this month, Robinson believes that the player may have been signed without Conte’s green light. 

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“I’m surprised at Djed Spence,” he told Express Sport, in association with 888Sport. “I question who sanctioned that transfer as a player that the manager clearly doesn’t want in his squad. He’s used him very sporadically, if at all this season. You wonder who made that signing and whether the manager was just given the player.

“This window they could get him out on loan so that he can get playing, especially when you look at last season and the performances that got him the move to Spurs. He’s got a real problem that Emerson Royal is playing ahead of him – that won’t do a lot for the lad’s confidence.”

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Yves Bissouma is another summer signing who has had to be patient at Spurs, with Conte regularly emphasising the importance of players taking time to learn his tactical set-up. The former Brighton midfielder has been used primarily from the bench this season with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur generally preferred. 

Tottenham lost ground in their hunt for the top four on Thursday night after giving up a two-goal lead against Manchester City. Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal gave Conte’s side a half-time advantage but Pep Guardiola oversaw a second-half onslaught to leave Spurs five points adrift of fourth place. 

“It’s going to be difficult for them [to make up the ground],” Robinson continued. “Newcastle are in uncharted territory which you wouldn’t have seen happening at the start of the season. [Manchester] United are on an excellent run, you look at where they’re going under [Erik] Ten Hag and they’re going to be very difficult to displace.

“Spurs are looking at other teams to start dropping points. They’ve got an opportunity with their squad to start putting results together, but recent form suggests that they’ll struggle to break into the top four.”

Research undertaken by 888Sport has asked Premier League fans to predict where their side will finish at the end of the season. The End of Season Table Prediction saw Tottenham Hotspur come 6th.

Despite a poor run of form, 888Sport found that 62 per cent of Spurs fans are confident that Antonio Conte is the right man for the job. The Italian has an impressive managerial record and managed to get Tottenham back in the champions league last season, for the first time since 2018/19.

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