Antonio Conte says he is not a « magician » and now understands the size of the job on his hands at Tottenham after they suffered a humiliating Europa Conference League defeat at NS Mura.
Conte watched on as his 10-man side were beaten 2-1 by the Slovenian minnows – the lowest-ranked team in the Europa Conference League who had lost all four of their previous games.
Spurs went down to Amadej Marosa’s stoppage-time goal after Harry Kane had earlier cancelled out Tomi Horvat’s shock opener.
Conte, who was appointed to replace Nuno Espirito Santo three weeks ago, has been tasked with taking Tottenham back to the top table of English football.
« After three weeks I am starting to understand the situation. It is not simple, » he said. « At this moment the level at Tottenham is not so high.
« I must be honest and tell you that after three-and-a-half weeks, I am starting to understand the situation. I can tell you that the situation is not simple. It is not simple because in this moment for sure the level of Tottenham is not so high.
« There is an important gap to the top teams in England. Of this we must not be scared. I am here to work, here to improve the situation. I know that in this moment we need to have patience, time and I am here because I know there are problems to solve.
« After three-and-a-half weeks, I am happy to stay here but at the same time I must be honest and tell you we need to work a lot to improve the quality of the [current] squad. We are Tottenham and Tottenham in this moment, there is an important gap.
« If someone thinks that a new coach arrives and Conte won in the past and then I am a magician. But the only magic I can do is to work. To bring work and work to improve, to bring my methods, my ideas of football. But we have to understand that we need time.
« I want to be honest that we need to work a lot to improve the situation. We need time and patience. I don’t know what happens in the future but I am here because I am happy to stay here, to work for Tottenham. »
Ryan Sessegnon’s first-half red card did not help matters but Conte still played Harry Kane for 90 minutes and brought Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura off the bench.
Conte has hinted his squad has limitations that could stop him achieving his targets at the club.
He said: « We have a lot of desire to work but you can work, work, work, work. But you can push a car at maximum level and sometimes it is not enough to be competitive.
« This road could be one metre or 100 metres, I am not scared, I am ready to go and do this path. But at the same time I want to be very honest, we have to work a lot and improve in many, many aspects.
« We have to do better at many, many things. It is important in football to have vision. Where are you now? And what do you want in the future? I am here to help the club in this aspect.
« The club is outstanding outside, to create a stadium but now we start from behind.
« It is important to know this because I am not a magician and after three weeks I have found players that want to work and have great commitment but sometimes it is not enough. »
O’Hara hits out at ‘disgraceful’ Spurs
Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara did not hold back in his criticism of the team’s performance in the defeat to NS Mura.
« It’s been an embarrassing performance. Shocking from every level. The fact Spurs had to bring on players to try to get something from the game, in terms of Son, Moura, Hojbjerg… just to bring them on was embarrassing. Mura are a Slovenian top-flight side. I’d expect a National League team to give these a game. It’s been a disgrace.
« Doherty, Ndombele, Dele Alli, Davinson Sanchez were absolutely shocking. They should be ashamed of their performance tonight. They shouldn’t wear a Spurs shirt again, some of them, in my opinion, because this is a Europa Conference League game that you need to win to get through, and you need to impress a brand new manager in Antonio Conte.
« Not one player on that pitch deserves any credit from that game. It was a shocking performance. I would give everything to put a Spurs shirt on again and give 100 per cent. Even being unfit, I’d give everything I’ve got. These players are strolling around the park like they’re dismissing this game, like they’re too good to play in it. A disgrace, an absolute disgrace from some of them.
« If Conte doesn’t go in and make big changes, get them out of the club. Get rid of them. Get them off the wage bill, we don’t want them there. It’s been pathetic. Not good enough, not fit enough and not got the determination and desire to wear a Spurs shirt.
« We’ve got players here, Ndombele, we paid £60m for him. Davinson Sanchez £40m, Sessegnon £30m, Doherty £15m. We’re talking about £100m worth of players putting in a performance like that against NS Mura, it’s embarrassing. Conte has got to do something and he’s got to do it quickly.
« How many managers have they seen off? Pochettino, Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo. Do you think Antonio Conte is going to stand for that? Get them out of the club, get them out on loan, do whatever you need to do, because that was nowhere near good enough.
« Whatever Conte said at half-time didn’t have an effect. You can’t get a tune out of them. You can’t just switch it on as a footballer and think it’s like a tap. You’ve got to be on it every single day of the week on and off the pitch. It’s as simple as that. Every training session, eating right, doing things right. Those players aren’t doing it right. You wouldn’t be putting performances in like that if you’re doing it right. Shocking. »