Antonio Conte has no illusions about the challenge he faces in trying to return Tottenham to the top of the table.
Spurs sit ninth in the Premier League, with five wins and five losses from 10 games this season ahead of Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park to face 10th-placed Everton.
Tottenham have not finished a season atop the top flight since 1991, and Conte acknowledged Friday his side must be ready to earn their ascent.
“I know that we need to take a bit of time because in the Premier League now there is a gap with at least four teams,” Conte 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. We have many teams in this moment that are more stable. In football, not as a club because this club I think is 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, to be something important together.”
Spurs have not hoisted a trophy since winning the League Cup in 2008 but their hopes remain alive in three different cup competitions so far this season.
Conte’s first match in charge was a 3-2 defeat of Vitesse on Thursday in UEFA Europa Conference League play and he hopes to see more along those lines going forward.
“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,” he said. “It’s impossible to invent. It’s impossible to pay [for]. Because it doesn’t cost money. No money for winning mentality.
“But I think you have to bring the right people into the club. The winning mentality, you must breathe 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.”
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