Terrace Talk: Conte needs to update his box of tricks

It doesn’t happen often but Antonio Conte needs to have a good look at himself following the game against Arsenal.

Terrace Talk: Conte needs to update his box of tricks

He picked the wrong team and employed the wrong tactics and was too slow to change it. We really needed a triple substitution after about 15 minutes. Although, that said, I don’t think three would have been enough given the woeful performances from Willian, Fabregas, Moses, and Cahill.

For the record, I am a fan of all those players with the obvious exception of Moses, but this was not the right game for them. So we saw ourselves overrun in midfield, Morata isolated and some diabolical passing against a bang average Arsenal team — quite depressing.

Also three games against Arsenal, three red cards, in games which hardly raised the blood pressure. Personally, I would call our performances naive but it does worry me that Conte thought we “played well” against a “strong” Arsenal side and that he doesn’t seem to have learned much from the encounters with them.

Arsenal celebrating an away draw to us as if they had just won the European Cup demonstrates exactly why this is a poor result for us. Or maybe they’re celebrating going a whole game without being run out of their own end.

The draw was particularly frustrating as a win could have already signalled a bit of a breakaway at the top with City and United — these gaps often gather momentum and ease the pressure later on in the campaign. But we can’t be too upset at being third having already played Tottenham and Arsenal. As much as we fully deserved our title last season, both United and City are much tougher opponents this time around and Conte needs to update his box of tricks — hopefully the Arsenal game has shown that.

The number of red cards we are racking up is worrying me. We are not a particularly dirty team and I know I am biased but we see opposition players getting away with very similar misdemeanours and not falling foul of the referee. Apparently this will all even itself out in the end but I just don’t think that is the case. Following Cahill’s sending-off, we saw a considerable number of similar and indeed worse tackles earn no punishment whatsoever and there seems to be some clubs who avoid the referees’ attention more than others. Chief amongst those is Arsenal.

I believe that refs have preconceived ideas of some clubs and ‘the’ Arsenal are still perceived as this club of great tradition, marble halls, the Corinthian spirit — blah blah blah. Wenger as ‘the professor’ — a team who can’t possibly be guilty of any sort of foul play. And they benefit from that perception. Our

history is a bit more patchy — both on and on the pitch —and as such we have a reputation and seem to be judged more harshly. That said, I think clubs traditionally at the top of the Premier League fare better than those traditionally found in the bottom half — as a club who have in the last 15 years progressed from the latter to the former, we do get the benefit of the doubt a bit more often.

At the end of the day, referees are human and it is unreasonable to imagine they will not be swayed by outside influences — whether it be what they read in the papers, what past referees say, what pundits say. The issue is that so many pundits/papers are totally red-centric and so the likes of United, Arsenal and Liverpool will get a sympathetic write-up of misdemeanours.Those of us not part of the chosen few instead gather hysterical headlines which must stay in the mind of referees as much as anyone who reads it. What is the answer? At least it gives us something to talk about it the pub....

And anyway, popularity has always been hugely over-rated.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox