Antonio Conte believes Tottenham are heading in the right direction after a busy summer transfer window, but has warned they can’t focus on closing the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool just yet.
Spurs signed six major deals this summer after a strong finish last season when they beat local rivals Arsenal to finish in fourth place and qualify for the Champions League. They kick off a new campaign at home in Southampton on Saturday as the Italian tries to downplay talk that they could challenge for the title this season.
“I think we are moving in the right direction, but you know very well that you need a little patience,” Conte said. “We know it’s hard to fight for a win in England, but we want to be competitive, try to be better than last season and that’s our goal.”
“If you ask me about City or Liverpool, I will say that we are talking about the two best clubs in the world who have been working with the same managers for years,” added the 53-year-old. “Now they are in such a position that it is very difficult for others to close the gap, but we must do it. Also due to [Spurs] have to spend £100m on six players, they go and spend that money on one or two players.”
“You have to run behind and they stay ahead of you, but they deserve to stay there because they work very well to have the same coach and support the coach. Klopp, Guardiola and [Chelsea’s Thomas] Tuchel… to be a strong team you need stability and vision. The idea has to be very clear, and then you go step by step and try to close that gap.”
Upon taking over at Tottenham in November, Conte experienced a series of ups and downs during his first few months in charge. The former Internazionale manager was able to lead Spurs into the top four, but demanded at the end of the campaign that his ambitions fit in with the club’s hierarchy.
Ivan Perisic, Frazier Forster, Yves Bissouma, Richarlison and Jed Spence have been permanently signed in response, with defender Clement Lenglet on loan from Barcelona. But Conte doesn’t get ahead of himself, adding: “Our goal at the moment is not to close the gap.”
“This is an attempt to be better than last season. We know we finished fourth last season and I think that was a big, big achievement, especially since we ended the season with just 13 players. The first goal was to try to improve the composition both qualitatively and numerically.
“Then you know very well that you cannot achieve the best, the optimum, in just one year or only after seven months. [in charge]. You need a little patience, but at the same time it is important to have ambition to try to be competitive, to try to fight for the best. These ambitions should push us to give 120% every day of our work.”
Spurs will be without Oliver Skipp on Saturday and need to check on new players Perisic and Bissum due to minor injuries. Fellow summer addition Richarlison is suspended after receiving a one-game suspension for celebrating with a flamboyant flare during a game against Everton last season.