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Conte has won five league titles in his last seven seasons as a coach but he has called for patience in his attempts to turn Spurs back into contenders after succeeding Nuno Espirito Santo as head coach on Tuesday.
And the Italian suggested even a return to Champions League football next season may be difficult, saying there is a gap with “at least four teams” – presumably Manchester City, Man United, Liverpool and his former club, Chelsea.
Asked why he had joined Spurs and if he believed he could win the title in north London, Conte said: “I thought that his club could give me the opportunity to do what I like. To work.
“In my life, I know only this word because if you want to reach important targets you need to work and for sure this club gave me this possibility, to work in the way that I want.
“But 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. 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.”
Tottenham twice came close to winning a maiden League title under Mauricio Pochettino, pushing Leicester close in 2015-16 before finishing second to Conte’s Chelsea side the following season.
Their failure to win a trophy since 2008 has often been put down to mentality and Conte says the killer instinct is something money can’t buy as he urged his players to live and breath a winning mentality every day.
“For sure this aspect we have to work on, 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 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.”
Conte also revealed his players must improve their physical condition after Spurs quickly dropped off in his opening game, the chaotic 3-2 win over Vitesse Arnhem on Thursday.
“I know my parameters and I know that I want to have a type of football that is aggressive and intensive,” he said.
“To do this type of football you need to stay in good physical condition otherwise you can follow this plane for 20-30 mins and then you go down. It is important for us to find the right solution to work on the physical and tactical aspect as we don’t have much time.
“This is only my worry that we don’t have much time to work and reach the level that we need now. But I don’t like to tell you slowly but now I need to (go) slowly to try to reach the best for this team.”