Tottenham Hotspur head coach Antonio Conte has hit out at the Premier League over its handling of the fixture postponements he believes have made the season “a mess”.
Conte has accused the league of showing a lack of respect for Spurs for the way they have been treated during the coronavirus fixture crisis and also slammed the justifications for postponements over player welfare as being “stupid”.
Tottenham were furious that the derby against Arsenal was postponed last weekend and Conte insisted it was the first time in his playing and managerial career that he had known games to be called off for injuries.
Conte’s team travel to Leicester City tonight in a game originally postponed at the hosts’ request, even though Spurs had an initial request to move the match turned down that resulted in the club effectively being kicked out of Europe.
Spurs have four games in hand on some clubs and, asked if the postponements had damaged the integrity of the league, Conte replied: “It is a mess now. There is maybe only one team or two who have played all their league games.City and maybe West Ham [Chelsea have too]. Us and Leicester have played 18, Burnley 17.
“Then they postponed the game against Watford.
“We have found the Premier League very strict when it happened, the outbreak at our training ground, and they did not want to postpone the game against Leicester. The Burnley game was postponed by snow. Then all this happened.
“Yes, you have to laugh because they have totally changed the vision. In every moment you have to show respect for all the teams and players, coaches, for people who work in football.”
Managers, clubs and the Premier League have often talked about player welfare around the issue of postponing games, but Conte added: “I think this is not the first season in England that you are speaking about the welfare of the players.
“My question is – in all these years, what has changed? Nothing. And for this reason I tell you that it is stupid to continue to speak about the welfare of the players because it’s a waste of time.
“I think that it’s stupid to speak about a topic that you don’t want to solve or you can’t solve. We have to move on.”
Arsenal applied for the north London derby to be postponed after players were ruled out through coronavirus, injuries, suspension and international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.
“When there is the situation to play, you have to play and not postpone games for injuries, for international duty,” Conte said.
“I think that we have a big problem to solve, that is Covid, but only about this situation can you decide to postpone.
“For other situations, honestly this is the first time in my life and I think I have a bit of experience in football. To see this type of decision, it was very strange.”
Tottenham Hotspur were eliminated from the Europa Conference League after a Covid-19 outbreak forced them to call off their final group game against Rennes, which could not be rescheduled because the Premier League would not move the Leicester City game that was eventually switched to tonight in any case.
“The Premier League didn’t want to move the game against Leicester, this is the only reason [we were eliminated] and then Leicester asked to postpone the game and the Premier League postponed it,” Conte said. “They penalised us in a bad way.”
Asked if the fallout over postponements threatened to overshadow the season, Conte said: “At the end of the season it will be the time to reflect on this season and the decisions the Premier League have taken.”
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