'I respect him' - Antonio Conte's tirade defended by Tottenham's Dejan Kulusevski as winger urges players to 'accept' their failures this season

Dejan Kulusevski Tottenham 2022-23Getty
  • Conte savaged Spurs players
  • But Kulusevski has defended manager's actions
  • Feels squad need to accept their failures

WHAT HAPPENED? In a now-infamous press conference given after their 3-3 draw at Southampton, the Italian lashed out at his players and at the club's perceived lack of winning mentality. Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was the first to respond to Conte's remarks, calling on his manager to be more specific with his criticisms and demanding an explanation for his tirade. Kulusevski, on the other hand, who has worked under Conte since his arrival at Spurs in January 2022, was more understanding.

🏆 TOP STORY: Chelsea set to axe Auba over Barca trip

📣 HAVE YOUR SAY: Is Mbappe really ready to captain France?

🚨 MUST READ: Viva Garnacho! Inside Man Utd star's rise

WHAT THEY SAID: When asked by Sky Sports whether he took offence to the criticisms, the Swedish winger replied: "No, because I know what I bring to the team everyday. I know that I prepare myself to do as good as I can and that's why I can always look at myself in the mirror. Sometimes I know I don't play [well] enough and I can take responsibility for that. But what [Conte] said is for him [to say], that's his word. But I respect him, he helped me a lot during my career so he's still a very important man in the club and in my work."

Kulusevski even disagreed with Hojbjerg's remarks over Conte's need to be more precise, justifying: "I don't know, he was very disappointed like us players. We have to accept that we lost [in] all the cups, we went out of the Champions League. I know sometimes we have to be sad and angry, and that's how he took it. We have to respect his words. Yes, absolutely [I am happy to keep working with him]."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Whether Kulusevski, or even Hojbjerg, is willing to work with Conte may not matter, as the Italian's comments appear to have had a lasting effect behind the scenes. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is expected to relieve the manager of his duties and appoint 31-year-old Ryan Mason as interim boss until the end of the season, after which rumours of a return for Mauricio Pochettino have been raging for some time. A more unorthodox appointment would be Harry Redknapp, who threw his hat into the ring earlier this week.


Antonio ConteGettyDejan Kulusevski Antonio Conte Tottenham 2022-23Getty Images

WHAT NEXT? In any case, Levy and Spurs will be afforded some time to make a decision as club football breaks for international fixtures. Kulusevski, meanwhile, will be in action for Sweden against Belgium on Friday in the first of their two European qualifiers, where there will be a meeting between two familiar foes.