Conte’s harmless comment about Matt Doherty hardly amounts to a character assassination
It seems that, as far as Matt Doherty's Spurs career is concerned, it's always been a case of one step forward, two steps back.
Jose Mourinho signed him in September 2020 and then six months later, Mourinho was sacked. It's not that Doherty was sad to have seen the back of the Portuguese, having featured sparingly during his tenure, it's just that things have barely changed since.
Ryan Mason was the next man in, as Spurs' caretaker boss, but he preferred Japhet Tanganga on the right side of defence. It may have seemed as though Doherty was about to get his break, soon afterwards, when his former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo took over at Tottenham... but it wasn't to be.
Nuno preferred a back four, which wasn't ideal, he also had more time for Tanganga and then to put the final nail in the coffin, he signed Emerson Royal from Barcelona on deadline day.
And then Nuno was gone after just four months in charge.
He doesn't have too much competition, clearly, but Doherty's best run at Spurs has come under the next man in, and his current boss, Antonio Conte. The Italian was also slow to warm to Doherty, and it didn't look good in the early days when Tanganga and Emerson Royal started all the big games ahead of him.
But with the fixtures piling up in February 2021, Doherty got his chance in the game Leeds United, took it, scoring his first Premier League goal and in the process, he turned Antonio Conte's head.
Looking like the Doherty of old, the right wing back went on to start and impress in his next seven Premier League games until it all went south again, when Matty Cash took him out of it. The Aston Villa full back went in hard on Doherty, who tore his medial ligament as a result, and was effectively ruled out for the season.
Which brings us to where we are now. We're nine games into the new season and, with Royal again heading him in the pecking order, Doherty has played just 22 minutes of Premier League football.
Conte has been relatively quiet on the Doherty front, until now. Having been asked in his pre-match press conference for tonight's game against Eintracht Frankfurt whether fellow right back Djed Spence could come into the team due to Emerson Royal's suspension, naturally enough, having discussed Spence, his thoughts then turned to the Dubliner.
"The fans is the fans," he responded to the Spence question, hinting that he hadn't seen enough from the Englishman to suggest he could take Royal's place.
"I understand they can think everything but I see every day what happens during the training session."
His focus then turned to Doherty as you can see from 7.00 in the below clip.
"Last season, Doherty played every game," Conte said. Now I'm not seeing him in the right way to start the game," he added, which hardly comes as a shock to anyone when you consider how little Doherty has played this season.
Now, it has been reported, as you can see below, that Conte's follow-up line, in which he said "I'm not stupid, I don't want to lose," was a direct response to a question about Doherty but it clearly wasn't. What it clearly was, was the Italian pointing out that he's picking the best Spurs team based on their performance at training, nothing more.
Antonio Conte's response when asked why he isn't starting Matt Doherty 🤐 pic.twitter.com/o7hW3XSbHj
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) October 4, 2022
And right now, Matt Doherty isn't ticking that box. He's not playing as well this year as he did last year. It's hardly a character assassination.