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Tottenham's Champions League exit: Trophy drought goes on as Antonio Conte and Harry Kane futures are questioned

Tottenham's wait for a major trophy will go into 2024 after they were knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League; Spurs last lifted silverware in 2008 when they won the League Cup; Antonio Conte's contract expires at the end of the season, while Harry Kane's runs until next summer

Harry Kane

The wait for Tottenham fans will now stretch into a 16th year. It's nearly 5,500 days and counting…

Spurs' search for a major trophy continues - they won the League Cup in 2008 - and after exiting the FA Cup at the fifth-round stage at Championship side Sheffield United earlier this month, they are now out of the Champions League thanks to a tame 1-0 aggregate defeat to AC Milan on Wednesday night.

With Spurs 18 points behind north London rivals and Premier League table-toppers Arsenal, and only 12 top-flight matches still to play, another trophy-less season beckons.

Spurs' next five fixtures in all competitions

  • Saturday March 11: Nottingham Forest (H) - Premier League, kick-off 3pm
  • Saturday March 18: Southampton (A) - Premier League, 3pm
  • Monday April 3: Everton (A) - Premier League, kick-off 8pm (live on Sky Sports)
  • Saturday April 9: Brighton (H) - Premier League, kick-off 3pm
  • Saturday April 15: Bournemouth (H) - Premier League, kick-off 3pm

Conte bemoans attacking woes after third successive shutout

Speaking after the home draw against Milan in which Spurs managed just two shots on target, Antonio Conte admitted his side had to improve in attack.

The north Londoners have now failed to score in three successive games in all competitions, and the manager said: "The game was in the balance but if you ask me if we were really dangerous… no. We can do much better offensively - I speak about the whole team."

Conte also highlighted Spurs' injury list - they are without Hugo Lloris, Rodrigo Bentancur, Yves Bissouma and Ryan Sessegnon - as well as the fact that his side are no longer competing in the third tier of European competition as mitigating factors for their disappointing exit.

Big six trophy wins since Spurs’ League Cup win in 2008…

  • Chelsea: 15
  • Man City: 14
  • Man Utd: 10
  • Liverpool: 7
  • Arsenal: 4
  • *Not including Community Shield wins

"Everybody wanted to try to go to the next round," he said. "Maybe in the first game we lost a good chance because Milan was without important players. In this game, Milan recovered all the players. We continue to face many games with many injuries.

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"But I can't say anything negative for the commitment of the players because they gave everything from the start until the end.

"If I have to see a positive in the situation, compared to last season we did a little step forward, because last season we played Conference League and we weren't able to overcome the group stage. Now we did a step forward but for sure it's not enough and if you want to be competitive you have to fight."

That final comment may raise eyebrows with Spurs supporters given how little fight their side displayed against Milan. The hosts knew they needed to win the game by two or more goals to progress to the quarter-finals but ended the game with zero big chances created and an expected goals total of just 0.46.

Spurs' last five Champions League knockout results

  • Final: Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool - June 1 2019
  • Last-16 first leg: Tottenham 0-1 RB Leipzig - February 19 2020
  • Last-16 second leg: RB Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham - March 10 2020
  • Last-16 first leg: AC Milan 1-0 Tottenham - February 14 2023
  • Last-16 second leg: Tottenham 0-1 AC Milan - March 8 2023

Will Tottenham stick with Conte?

Tottenham have a decision to make: stick or twist with Antonio Conte?

But this question is not aimed at what they do in the summer, it is about what they do right now, despite the Italian saying after their Champions League exit that "this is not the right day to speak about my future."

Conte has 12 games left before his contract expires and while Spurs will not win a trophy this season, they are firmly in the hunt for a top-four finish.

But having now fired blanks in their last three matches and been dumped out of the FA Cup by Sheffield United, Spurs are heading in the opposite direction while their nearest top-four rivals Liverpool are improving.

Conte's recent absence from the touchline as he recovered from surgery wouldn't have helped, although Tottenham were still delivering inconsistent performances during that time before it all unravelled against AC Milan.

If Spurs swing the axe now, their new head coach will have time to assess the squad ahead of the summer and a full pre-season. But there is a top-four place up for grabs and a Conte departure could cause more harm than good.

Then there is the question of who could Spurs get in at such short notice to lead their push for Champions League qualification. Mauricio Pochettino is available…

When the big six clubs last won a trophy…

  • Manchester United: League Cup 2023
  • Manchester City: Premier League 2022
  • Liverpool: FA Cup 2022
  • Chelsea: Club World Cup 2022
  • Arsenal: FA Cup 2020
  • Tottenham: League Cup 2008

Romero lets Spurs down in biggest moment

Tottenham's Cristian Romero, bottom, fouls AC Milan's Rafael Leao during the Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Image: Cristian Romero commits a foul on AC Milan's Rafael Leao

As soon as Cristian Romero decided he could beat Theo Hernandez to the ball, with the AC Milan left wing-back flying down the touchline directly in front of the managers, the red card was inevitable.

Romero is not a player that shirks a challenge. In fact, he relishes them, like a striker treasures scoring goals. But he has developed a bad habit for making tackles he doesn't need to commit to and it cost Tottenham dearly on Wednesday.

The Argentinian World Cup winner was never going to win the bouncing ball in front of the quicker Hernandez, who touched it beyond Romero before going down under the weight of his full-blooded challenge.

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Danny Rose gives his live reaction as Cristian Romero is shown a second yellow in Spurs' crucial Champions League match against AC Milan

Romero's red card came after 78 minutes of dreadful football from Spurs but they were playing an average side in Milan and had just over 10 minutes to finally take off the handbrake and try to level the tie on aggregate.

But the centre-back's dismissal undermined those prospects, with Conte deciding he had to bring Davinson Sanchez on for Dejan Kulusevski to fill the hole left by Romero as Spurs' Champions League campaign fizzled out in desperate fashion.

Romero's aggressiveness is one of his key strengths - he is capable of bullying attackers out of a game - but in allowing that aggression to spill over to unacceptable levels, he let his side down in their biggest game of the season.

Domestic trophy winners outside big six clubs since Spurs won the League Cup in 2008…

  • Portsmouth – FA Cup, 2008
  • Birmingham – League Cup, 2011
  • Swansea – League Cup, 2013
  • Wigan Athletic – FA Cup, 2013
  • Leicester City – Premier League, 2016
  • Leicester City – FA Cup, 2021

Rose: Kane deserves so much more

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Former team-mate Danny Rose thinks Harry Kane is the ultimate professional and his favourite number nine, and hopes he stays in England if he is to leave Tottenham

Former Spurs defender Danny Rose admitted Harry Kane, the club's record goalscorer, "deserves so much more" than he has achieved during his time in north London.

For all his individual honours, Kane has never won a team trophy, and his former team-mate Rose told Sky Sports: "I haven't spoken to him for a while so I am only speculating but for me, it's obvious where his mindset would be right now and for the remaining two or three months of the season.

"He deserves so much more than what is being given to him over the years.

"If he does leave, I hope he doesn't leave England and if he does leave, I hope he goes onto win everything possible before he retires because that is what he deserves."

Rose added: "People talk about Spurs having the best stadium. You can have the best house but if the furniture is not the best inside, it's irrelevant.

"Everybody has got to be held accountable. Daniel Levy has said about the signings not being great and that is bizarre because I'm sure I said something like that six years ago and got fined two weeks' wages.

"Everybody needs to take some blame and it will be interesting to see where they go from here until the end of the season."

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Danny Rose reflects on the situation at Tottenham following the club's Champions League exit, leading to another season without a trophy

Rose said he believes Conte's failure to commit to a new contract with Spurs suggests the former Chelsea boss will not be in charge next season, saying: "What is being served up week in, week out at the football club is not good at all.

"I don't see Antonio Conte wanting to manage in the Europa League if Spurs fail to finish in the top four.

"If they do manage to qualify for next season's Champions League, which I don't see them doing because I see Liverpool catching them, Conte's going to want quite a bit of money to spend for him to go again and improve the squad in the summer.

"You hear discrete things throughout his press conferences. He references a lack of money and needing more to compete. He also said last season was a miracle qualifying for the Champions League and I'm not sure that goes down well with the fans and the hierarchy at the club.

"Also, if a manager has not signed a new deal two months before the end of the season I think that says everything.

"I don't know how much there is at his disposal and then what about if he loses Harry Kane? Tottenham without Kane is not the same Tottenham at all.

"If Kane were to leave that's not an easy decision for any manager to come to Tottenham. There's just so much work to be done at Spurs and so many questions that need answering."

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