Antonio Conte has admitted that his threat to quit Tottenham after a defeat at Burnley in February was a premeditated stunt to try and prompt change at the club.
Conte’s Spurs are only a point behind Arsenal in the race for the fourth Champions League spot after beating their neighbours on Thursday night.
A win over relegation-threatened Burnley at home on Sunday would take Conte’s team ahead of Arsenal as the Gunners don’t play at Newcastle until Monday night and this weekend’s fixture has prompted memories of perhaps the lowest point of the Italian’s short time at the club.
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte has admitted he was driven ‘crazy’ at the start of his tenure
He has turned Tottenham fortunes around and the club are now fighting for a top four spot after their thumping 3-0 win over bitter rivals Arsenal on Thursday evening
Defeat at Burnley two and a half months ago came days after Tottenham had won at Manchester City and typified the inconsistency that blighted Conte’s team at that time. He had also been at odds with the club over transfer spending and said he would consider his future if things didn’t change.
Reminded of this on Friday, Conte said: ‘I think honestly there are moments that if you want to change the situation you have to go strong.
‘I took a risk because a lot of people didn’t understand. I read that it only took two months for Tottenham to make Conte crazy! I remember very well that I was the crazy one.
‘But sometimes coaches have a strategy and the strategy is the stick or the carrot. At the time the environment needed the stick. Myself was the first person because I hit myself. And then the others.
Conte was furious with Spurs after a poor run ended with a 1-0 loss to Burnley in February
‘At the time, I thought it was right to go strong to try to change the situation and in my opinion no-one could think then that, with two games to go, Tottenham could fight for the Champions League.
‘Instead now we are there and from that step we improved a lot.’
Conte’s future at Tottenham remains uncertain and failure to qualify for the Champions League may yet have an impact on the 52-year-old’s thinking.
He has only one year left on this contract beyond this season and the club are already considering possible replacements in case a Plan B has to be activated.
But it appears the former Inter and Chelsea coach is beginning to see change at Spurs both in the dressing room and the boardroom.
‘The most important thing is that we had time to know each other, to work together,’ Conte explained.
Conte even threatened to quit the club after struggling to get his philosophies across
‘Don’t forget that I arrived at Tottenham in November and usually when you arrive during the season you have to work. You have to play games and there is no time.
‘It’s all about the three points, winning the three points, losing three points. I don’t like that situation but you have to accept it.
‘But I think a lot of things have changed since Burnley. We worked a lot together, we had time, we also had the possibility to know each other much better.’
Thursday’s 3-0 win against Arsenal was as comprehensive as the score line suggested. Harry Kane scored twice in the first half before Son Heung-min added a third before being taken off.
The Korean was visibly upset by that decision and Conte explained with a smile: ‘It was a strategy! A strategy because in this way I push him on Sunday to try to score and not be relaxed and stay top scorer.
‘Because now he has one goal less than Mo Salah. No, I’m joking. I wanted to give him a bit of rest because on Sunday it will be a sporting war.’
Conte said he had to ‘go strong’ on his squad to change their mentality following dismal form