Antonio Conte says that only with time and lots of money can Tottenham hope to compete with the “monsters” at the top of the Premier League.
As he prepares to take on quadruple- chasing Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday evening, while pursuing his target of finishing in a Champions League spot, the manager laid out the criteria that would see Spurs bridge the gap to becoming real contenders.
“It’s not easy,” Conte said. “It’s a difficult path because now this league is tough and the gap that exists between the top teams and the other teams is an important gap.
“If you have time, passion and a lot of money to invest, you can try to become competitive and to fight against these monsters. But in England there are many teams that want to invest a lot of money and try to fight for something special.”
The Italian has never been shy – in any of his jobs – of calling for greater transfer spending. There have also been rumours regarding his commitment to a long-term project at Spurs. But as Conte made the case for more investment he also credited the January spending in bringing in Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur.
“I think in these seven months, we did a really good job with the club and the opportunity we had also in January to sign two good players for us, to help us, to improve the quality of the team.
“We signed Kulusevski and to see the capacity of this player to come into our team, like Bentancur, for us these two signings were very important.
“When there is an important player, it is important to try to sign him because you know a top player will improve your team and the quality of your squad. If you want to win something, for sure you need players at the top, not medium-level players.”
Jürgen Klopp likes to talk of his side as “mentality monsters” and this is perhaps a third quality that Conte sees as key to possible success. He argues that recent dropped points against Brighton and Brentford were as much about his team struggling to adapt to the position of being favourites for Champions League qualification as about playing against a low block. That attitude can be changed, he says, but only by winning.
“Before the two games against Brighton and Brentford we were behind the others,” Conte said. “Then we got into the third and fourth places and we tried to defend that position. But I think this team and this group of players are improving with every aspect, also to manage the right pressure.
“A lot of people speak about ‘winning mentality, winning mentality’ but you get the winning mentality when you start to win. Winning becomes a drug for you and you want to repeat it. You want to have this fantastic moment, to celebrate, to feel in this moment that you are the best. This is important.”