Joleon Lescott column: Conte should be getting more out of struggling Spurs
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Tottenham — and I firmly believe Antonio Conte should be getting more out of his squad than he currently is.
The Italian went public after the Newcastle defeat, saying he needs more depth to compete for the Premier League and Champions League, which I agree with to an extent.
However, it’s not like he wasn’t backed in the summer. There was over £150million spent and I expected to see more progress given the quality that came in.
It’s not like the whole squad needed reconstructing either, with the likes of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg already in the building.
Eddie Howe joined Newcastle at a very similar time to Conte's arrival at Spurs. And while expectations are different at the two clubs, I’d say Toon fans will be much happier with their progress in the last year.
Meanwhile, Erik ten Hag had a tough start at Old Trafford but the way they dominated against Spurs shows the Dutchman has very quickly got his players to buy into his ideas.
I’ve said it before but with how Conte plays, it’s acceptable when results are going your way but fans will get frustrated quickly when they aren’t.
He’s a world-class coach but I think walking away from this project under the suggestion he’s not been backed would not be a good look.
Magpies flying high
Having mentioned them already, this week seems the perfect time to give some well-earned praise to Newcastle.
The Magpies’ only defeat so far this season came in the last minute at Anfield and you’d have to say Howe has already exceeded expectations.
He’s proven to be a perfect fit for the club in terms of bringing an attractive style of play, kicking the squad on to the next level and introducing the right kind of characters to improve the group.
In the past, Howe has been spoken about as a potential England manager and he’s certainly not doing himself any harm in that regard.
However, I don’t expect to see him in charge of the Three Lions any time soon.
For one, I think he’s really enjoying his time on Tyneside and there can’t be many more exciting projects in football at the moment.
I also think Eddie still needs to gain more experience at the top level, competing for titles and playing in high pressure situations where you have to win games at all costs.
Newcastle are hoping to reach that kind of level in the coming years, so that development should occur naturally if he can continue on his current trajectory.
Is any Englishman able to turn down the national job when it becomes available, though? I think it would be a very tough role to reject!
Anyway, I would hope to see the FA show some loyalty to Gareth Southgate regardless of how the World Cup goes — he certainly deserves it.
Time for my weekend predictions.
Joleon Lescott’s Premier League Matchday 14 predictions
Leicester vs Manchester City (Saturday, 12.30pm, BT Sport 1)
Leicester have been playing much better in recent weeks and they’ll be quietly confident of causing Manchester City some problems.
I’m really pleased for Brendan Rodgers that he’s been able to turn things around at the King Power Stadium — I’ve always had a lot of respect for him as a coach.
It’s always a big ask for a team to turn City over, though.
Prediction: Leicester 1-3 Manchester City
Bournemouth vs Tottenham (Saturday, 3pm)
It’d be nice to see Spurs put in a real front-foot performance after their recent troubles, though it’s hard to just flick a switch and change your approach.
Bournemouth are still playing well despite results deserting them a little bit and I don’t think this will be an easy afternoon for the visitors.
I’m actually going to back Gary O’Neil’s men to grab a share of the spoils.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-1 Tottenham
Brentford vs Wolves (Saturday, 3pm)
It’s not very often two teams meet after both being stuffed 4-0 in their previous matches — so it’ll be all about who responds best.
I’m really worried about my old club Wolves. Things just seem to be going from bad to worse and I’d expect a new manager in sooner than the turn of the year.
Thomas Frank’s hosts have shown what great character they have in their ranks and that should see them through.
Prediction: Brentford 2-0 Wolves
Brighton vs Chelsea (Saturday, 3pm)
Graham Potter returns to his former club and I imagine he’ll feel very emotional walking out at the Amex.
I’ve been quite impressed by how he’s started at Chelsea. The players all look very happy in training and on the pitch, which is always a positive sign.
This will be a close game I reckon but I’ll edge for the Blues.
Prediction: Brighton 1-2 Chelsea
Crystal Palace vs Southampton (Saturday, 3pm)
Fair play to Southampton, they’ve strung a few really positive results together in the last couple of weeks.
But it’s rare you see the Saints find any real consistency, so I do have my reservations over whether they can overcome Crystal Palace.
I’ll plump for Patrick Vieira’s side to get the better of the visitors.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-1 Southampton
Newcastle vs Aston Villa (Saturday, 3pm)
After all I’ve said about Newcastle, it would be a little bit contradictory to go against them in my predictions!
Villa were extremely impressive last weekend, putting in a fantastic performance to blow Brentford away, and they’ll head to St James' Park in high spirits.
But it is such a tough place to go this season and I think they’ll fall just short.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-1 Aston Villa
Fulham vs Everton (Saturday, 5.30pm, Sky Sports)
Fulham are enjoying a dream campaign and the way they bounced back from consecutive defeats earlier in the month says a lot about their character.
They host an Everton side who put in a convincing display against Palace and it was great to see three different forwards on the scoresheet for the Toffees.
I’ll go for an entertaining score draw.
Prediction: Fulham 2-2 Everton
Liverpool vs Leeds (Saturday, 7.45pm, Sky Sports)
Liverpool’s hopes of challenging for the title already seem to be dead and buried this season but things could yet get worse for the Reds.
A couple more silly defeats would see them well adrift of the top four, which would be a really disastrous campaign — it’s not quite at that stage yet, though.
I think the Reds should have too much for Jesse Marsch’s inconsistent Leeds side at home.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Leeds
Arsenal vs Nottingham Forest (Sunday, 2pm)
As I said in last week’s column, the most important thing for Arsenal is not to panic when points are inevitably dropped — so they need a response to that Southampton draw here.
Forest will be buoyant after turning Liverpool over but they’ve had a few heavy beatings on the road already this term.
I fear for Steve Cooper’s men against a Gunners side desperate to bounce back
Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Nottingham Forest
Manchester United vs West Ham (Sunday, 4.15pm, Sky Sports)
This pair will be a lot happier with how things have gone in recent weeks, having both endured difficult starts to the season.
It’s a tricky one because I think both teams like to bide their time and do the bulk of their attacking on the counter, which could make this a bit cagey.
When teams match each other up, the quality normally prevails, so you’d have to edge for Manchester United in that regard.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 West Ham
Joleon Lescott was speaking to Matthew Hill