Shots fired! Conte begins the mind games
Football : Antonio Conte questions Tottenham ambition
Antonio Conte has begun the first mind game of the new Premier League season. In questioning the level of Spurs criteria for success, he has struck the first blow by trying to get the upper hand on one of his main rivals before a ball has been kicked.
In a week where Jose Mourinho praised Tottenham for their transfer policy and ability to hold together a young and admired squad, Conte has directly opposed that view and criticised their lack of spending.
He has a point. His suggestion is that if you are expected to win the Champions League, The Premier League and everything else, then you need to keep improving your squad. In Chelsea's case they didn't play in Europe last year, so he was expected to add significantly as the burden on key players will increase come October and the start of the Champions League. If Spurs decided that they it was 'top 2' or Pochettino leaves, they might consider opening the wallet a bit.
There has been much made of Spurs lack of spending. Chairman Daniel Levy suggested that current spending trends could not go on for long, but with financial fair play seemingly not working as it should, why can't it? Owners like Sheik Mansour and Roman Abramovich do have ways of injecting just that little bit more money than other clubs, and as long as there are ways around paying players, agents and other clubs in direct fees, that trend looks set to continue.
It is clear is that Conte's comments will rile Pochettino. Which is exactly what they are meant to do. A clever way of undermining everything that the Spurs manager has said about developing players and having a different model to other Premiership clubs. The united front presented by Tottenham about not splurging on players this year could also be taken as a veiled dig by others. Including Conte.
The first blow has been struck, and the Spurs players will feel it too, whether it is detrimental to the start of their campaign remains to be seen. It might well get them fired up too.
Chelsea beat Spurs to the title last year, as well as knocking them out of the F.A Cup at the semi-final stage, ironically at Wembley, Spurs new home for the coming season.
The stakes for Spurs first match at their temporary home have been raised... that fixture? Chelsea. Expect fireworks.