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"I hate..." - Antonio Conte aims dig at Arsenal as North London derby mind games begin

Ryan Smart

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"I hate..." - Antonio Conte aims dig at Arsenal as North London derby mind games begin

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte has aimed a dig at Arsenal in an answer about match officials during his pre-match press conference before the north London derby.

It is a big match for both sides, with Arsenal aiming to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to eight points after second-placed Manchester City lost to Manchester United on Saturday.

For Spurs, they could start the game five points off the top four places, if Newcastle beat Fulham.

The pressure has been raised on Antonio Conte's side in recent weeks, with two wins from their last five games.

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And former Watford striker Troy Deeney has claimed to The Sun that the Italian could quit Spurs if they lose against Arsenal, although talks are underway over extending a deal that runs out in 2023 with an additional one-year option held by the club.

Meanwhile, ahead of the game, Conte was asked specifically about match officials, and criticism recently aimed at the Gunners over two separate incidents.

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Following their 0-0 draw in the Premier League against Newcastle on January 3, Arsenal were fined £40,000 for failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion.

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And for a second time in the month, the Gunners were charged for the reaction of several players to referee David Coote not awarding a penalty during Monday's 3-0 FA Cup win at Oxford United.

When asked about whether he would talk to his squad after the charges, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said (quotes via football.london): "We always have conversations with our players and staff to see what we can do better [and if] we have to change any behaviour."

Conte responds to Arsenal charges

Asked specifically about the general standards of behaviour expected to be adhered to when it comes to match officials, Conte appeared to aim a dig at Arsenal by replying (quotes via The Telegraph]: "You have to show respect in every situation and especially also with the referee because I know very well [how] difficult [it is] to be a referee, to take decisions.

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"I think to intimidate, or to create a bad atmosphere, is not fair. I don't like this. I hate the people that try to do it.

"Don't forget that we are talking always about a game of football. Sometimes it [happens] in the emotion, I remember very well against Sporting Lisbon [earlier this season, in the Champions League], we scored in the 95th minute and then we stayed five minutes to wait for the VAR decision.

"I was really upset but I never, never lacked the respect of the referee. Then, he sent me away because I went into the pitch, but I think in every moment, you have to show respect. Don't forget this is football, an incredible sport, and we have to respect each other."

The clash between Spurs and Arsenal kicks off at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday at 4:30pm.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Antonio Conte, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Premier League

Ryan Smart
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