Antonio Conte says managing Tottenham is the biggest test of his career, adding “this is a big challenge for the club, this is a big challenge for the players, for everybody”; Spurs could move up to sixth in the Premier League table if they beat Brentford in Thursday night’s London derby
Conte has quickly become aware of just how big a task it will be to get Spurs back to the top table of English football after an eye-opening first four weeks in charge.
The Italian said that the level was “not high” after the embarrassing Europa Conference League defeat to Slovenian minnows NS Mura last week.
And Conte believes delivering success like he did at Chelsea, Juventus and Inter Milan will be his toughest ever task.
“Biggest challenge, yes. But as I said in Mura, I’m not scared about this,” he said ahead of Thursday’s clash with Brentford.
“I have a lot of enthusiasm. When I arrive here, I enjoy the situation. I enjoy to work with the players, I enjoy to speak with the club, I enjoy to create a good base. Now the most important thing is this - to create a good base and then to build something important.
“We need a bit of time but I’m sure we can improve a lot and give satisfaction to our fans. But this is a big challenge for me. This is a big challenge for the club. This is a big challenge for the players. For everybody.”
When Conte won the Premier League with Chelsea, Spurs - under Mauricio Pochettino at the time - were their biggest rivals, finishing second.
Conte says Spurs are paying the price for not refreshing their squad earlier.
“The club, in the last years, has been slipping,” he said. “If I compare Tottenham to when I was in Chelsea, Tottenham was very, very competitive, was a really, really strong team.
“And I think that to lose important players or someone became old and then to have a change of generation, I think Tottenham now is paying a bit of this.
“Now we have to create, to start again. To think that we have to create a solid base and then to build. Because if we don’t have a solid base, it’s impossible to build something important.
“I think that now is the right moment to create a solid base and then to start to build. To come back to fight for something important as [in] the past.
“I think it must be our target but this target has to involve all - the club, the players. I think also our fans.
“I understand that sometimes they lose their patience but I repeat I am here to put myself totally for Tottenham and to work 24 hours for this club because this a big challenge for me - maybe the best, big challenge, about the difficulty - about the position that we are starting.”
Cristian Romero will not play again in 2021 after Conte revealed the defender’s hamstring injury is “very serious”.
Romero suffered the injury playing for Argentina in last month’s World Cup qualifier against Brazil.
He will miss at least 10 games between now and January 2, starting with Brentford at home on Thursday, with Conte unsure when he will be fit again.
“The news is not positive, the injury is serious,” said Conte. “It will take time before we see him again. Surely next year, we have to check his injury week by week, but the injury is serious.
“Now he is trying to recover, but he needs a long time to recover. It is a pity because he is an important player for us, the injury is very serious.
“I don’t know, January, February. But for 2021, he has finished [play]. We have to wait and recover well.”