New Tottenham boss Antonio Conte admits his side are a long way off being able to challenge for the Premier League title and knows he has to build a winning mentality at the club.
Conte arrived in north London earlier this week following the sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo and will be expected to get them challenging at the top end of the table again.
The Italian got an insight into just how hard that might be during a dramatic 3-2 win over Vitesse Arnhem in his first game in charge.
When he won the Premier League title with Chelsea, Spurs were his biggest rivals, with Mauricio Pochettino’s side ending a 13-game winning run, but Conte’s new side are nowhere that standard currently.
Conte has asked for time to try and cut the gap to Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United.
“I know that we need to take a bit of time because in the Premier League now I think there is a gap with at least four teams,” he said.
“But this situation must be an incentive for us to work harder, to try to start to work to close this gap and to start to think that we have to be competitive and then to try to fight for the title.
“At the moment, honestly, I can’t tell you that this team is ready to fight for the title or we have many teams in this moment that are more stable.
“In football, not as a club because this club I think are super, super stable. But on the pitch, I think we need to work to improve our level and to try to be closer to these teams that are showing to be very, very strong.
“And for this reason, I repeat, I need time but I’m not scared about this because in my life I always work very, very hard to reach the target and to enjoy with the club a title.
“But at the same time, we have to know the reality – we must be focused on the present and to have a vision for the present and also for the future.”
Conte is the latest man to try and end Tottenham’s 13-year trophy drought and his CV stacks up among the best.
Spurs came close under Pochettino and also Mourinho, getting to the Carabao Cup final before he was sacked, but could never get over the line.
The mentality at the club has always been questioned in such situations, famously dubbed ‘Spursy’, and Conte knows that cannot be changed overnight.
It’s not easy because you have to work every day and you have to breathe winning mentality every day and you don’t invent this, the winning mentality. It’s impossible to invent
“For sure, for sure this aspect we have to work, to improve. It’s not easy,” he said.
“It’s not easy because you have to work every day and you have to breathe winning mentality every day and you don’t invent this, the winning mentality. It’s impossible to invent.
“It’s impossible to pay (for). Because it doesn’t cost. No money for winning mentality. But I think you have to take the right people, to bring this into the club.
“The winning mentality, you must breath every day. You have to start every day with this type of mentality.
“You have to start to think about football for many hours of your life to improve results, to win. To start to think that ‘OK, I want to win but I know that it means sacrifice, it means to suffer’.
“It means to work very hard. And if you start to think in this way, it means that you want to become a winner. Otherwise you continue to stay at your medium level.
“When I speak about time, I involve all of this situations and all of these aspects because when you want to become a winner, when you want to win something in your life, it means that you have to start to think to reach a top target and to win a top trophy, to win the League, to win the Champions League, to win the Europa Conference League or the Carabao Cup.
“You have to know that most of your time in your life, you have to dedicate also to football.”
Conte, who held talks with the club in June following his exit from Inter Milan, had been linked with the Manchester United job amid speculation Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position was under threat but he said he had “absolutely not” had any contact.
He insisted Spurs are the only club he had spoken to, adding: “I spoke with Tottenham, they called me once and I said, ‘thanks for this call and that you talked to me’, but it wasn’t the right time.
“It was in a period quickly, very soon after I leave my relationship with Inter Milan and I was still emotionally inside this experience. It was very intensive for me and I wasn’t ready to say yes to Tottenham.”
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