Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte has called for trust in his judgement following a tense period with forward Richarlison.
Richarlison was handed a start in Saturday’s win, playing all but six minutes of the 90 as fellow strikers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min registered on the scoresheet, but Conte was keen to remind his forward who was in charge.
Richarlison has only scored in one game for Spurs since his £60 million move from Everton last summer.
“Don’t forget that Richarlison started the season really well and after three [or] four games he started to play regularly,” Conte told reporters. “He played well but he didn’t score, only in the Champions League, but he was many times in the starting line-up.
“Then he had a serious injury and the guy was really scared to lose his World Cup place, then he recovered and then he got another serious injury in the World Cup. He came back after the World Cup and then stayed one month to recover and then he struggled a bit.
“He had other problems physically, but I repeat, the coach is not so stupid. All the coaches are not so stupid. They start their best players. They don’t care if it’s Richarlison, [Harry] Kane, Son, Lucas [Moura], [Dejan] Kulusevski or [Arnaut] Danjuma, we want to win. I have to take the right decision.
“We needed to get points and we need to win in every game. I understand that if you speak to every player they want to play every game, even when they’re tired. It’s not fair this because I repeat, you have to take the best decision.
“If the player is tired, he wants to play, and then he gets an injury, then he’s out and relaxed, but I’m out. In England, they think you have to have 11 strong players – you need 17, 18, and that’s how you win.”
With Tottenham out of all cup competitions, the only objective they can have from an unremarkable campaign is claiming a top-four spot, and the importance of Saturday’s victory wasn’t lost on Conte.
“Today was important, especially because after the game against Milan, we weren’t able to go to the next round of the Champions League, but today it was really important because we know we only have the league now,” continued Conte.
“We have only 11 games to go, we needed to bounce back and show that we are strong mentally and in this type of situation the morale can be really down.
“Instead, I see the right desire to get a win and it was positive, but at the same time, I said to my players this has to be the start.
“I’m happy for the response of the whole team, the desire to help each other. I always say to you, to create a winning mentality is to have players and sign players, but at the same time, I think it’s more important to create the spirit.
“The right spirit helps you to overcome difficult situations. If you are a team in every circumstance, you are stronger instead of 11 single players. We are working a lot to try to build the right mentality. I know very well that before to arrive at the end of this path you have to work.”
Fourth-placed Tottenham are now six points above Liverpool in the battle for a Champions League spot, although Jurgen Klopp’s side have a game in hand over their rivals.
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