Another season, another trophy-less campaign – welcome to life as a Tottenham fan, where the highlight in recent times has been a scramble for a top-four finish in the Premier League.
In a week that saw Spurs knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship side Sheffield United then lose ground in the league with defeat at Wolves, their Champions League exit to AC Milan had a depressingly familiar feel to it.
So is Antonio Conte likely to become the seventh permanent Spurs boss to try and fail to end their 15-year trophy drought?
A limp 0-0 second-leg draw, against a far-from-vintage Milan side, saw Spurs fans angrily voice their disapproval over the side’s perceived negative style of play under the Italian.
And with his contract up in June, Wednesday’s defeat felt like it could be the beginning of the end for the Italian, who has only reached the Champions League quarter-finals once in six attempts as a manager.
“I have a contract with Tottenham,” Conte said. “I respect the contract. At the end of the season, assessments will be made with the club in the most serene way.
“Let’s see how the season ends. Maybe they can send me away even earlier. Tottenham know very well what my thoughts are and at end of season we will meet and make a decision.
“I can’t say anything negative about the commitment of the players. They gave everything from the start to the end. If I have to see a positive situation, it is that we had a step forward – but it is not enough and if we want to be competitive, we have to fight.
“I don’t like to lose but it can happen, especially because last season don’t forget we played [Europa] Conference League and two years ago Europa League.
“I am really sorry for the fans, but we cannot hope for a miracle one day that a trophy goes into our training ground. We have to build and have patience.”
Tottenham have now failed to score in each of their last three games and their football has attracted criticism this term for being too passive and cautious.
Conte’s call for patience is unlikely to quell growing discord among the club’s supporters.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, former Blackburn striker Chris Sutton credited the former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss with returning to work quickly after his recent surgery but said he is not getting the best from his key players.
“It is not just one single thing, but they are a team of under performers,” said Sutton.
“We know Spurs are capable of blowing any team away but it is too few and far between. Conte is a stickler – he doesn’t care what people think. The system has brought him a fair share of success and he is sticking with it.
“It has been too tepid from Tottenham. As always it is a ball into Harry Kane and hope he produces a wonder pass. It’s tentative Tottenham, it’s tame Tottenham. They have been bang average and inconsistent all season.
“Conte has been through a lot and could have taken longer off. I admire him for fronting up but the players on the pitch let him down. A number of Spurs players this season have simply not turned up. Son Heung-min – what has happened to him this season?”
Speaking on BT Sport former Tottenham striker Peter Crouch echoed Sutton’s comments, saying it was time to let the club’s attacking players express themselves more in keeping with the club’s traditions.
“It isn’t the first time we have said it, but Tottenham’s best players are going forward but they aren’t allowed to express themselves,” Crouch said.
“What is the point of getting top four if you’re going to perform like this in the Champions League?
“The fans would like to see an FA Cup or a Carabao Cup win – a trophy. It’s been so long. So to play a weakened team in the FA Cup and the reason you rest the players is for the Premier League game, and you then lose that, then you’re out of the Champions League.
“You’re going for top four, but what for? They haven’t performed in any game I’ve seen here in the Champions League.”
Jon: You have to look at this season as a failure now, even if we make the top four. When you consider where us and Arsenal were at the end of last season and compare the impact of the signings. Theirs have been good – they’re top of the league. All of ours have flopped – we’re stagnant.
Chris: If ever you want to understand the current mindset of a fan base, it’s that reaction to when six minutes were held up on the board. At Anfield, Emirates, Stamford Bridge, you’d have heard a deafeningly encouraging roar. Spurs fans just had an accepting silence.
Callum: That’s enough of that for me. Conte-ball is the most atrocious brand of football I have seen in 33 years. We still lose when we shouldn’t, we just play uglier football. Conte doesn’t want to be there, and I don’t want to watch his team. Here it comesâ¦ #Conteout.
Darren: Spineless. Heartless. Gutless. Abject surrender. Season over. Conte out.
Pete: Hard to see where on earth this Spurs team think a goal is coming from. No obvious game plan. No obvious style. Just….turgid. It’s like one of those avant-garde shows a friend invites you to, and then you find out it’s four hours in the life of a paper clip. Soul destroying.
Charlie: Let’s be honest, a win in this competition was never on the cards. The loss in the FA Cup has to be the trigger for change. Daniel Levy should be making inquiries on a new manager now, and have him lined up for the summer.