It may have been a chastening fourth defeat to Chelsea for Tottenham Hotspur, as the visitors made it through to their ninth League Cup final, but the season can still end relatively successful for Antonio Conte’s side.
And a win would put Conte’s side in a great position to go on and finish fourth in the league, and return to the prestigious Champions League.
The Lilywhites are eager to boost their chances of doing that by adding to their squad this month, and there is an expectation that at least one player will arrive in January, if not more.
Here’s everything Conte has had to say on the matter so far, starting from the end of December, taking in his recruitment meeting with Fabio Paratici and Daniel Levy, doing late deals, finding competition for Harry Kane and more.
Do you believe you need to add players in the January transfer window to challenge for the top four?
For sure. After only two weeks, I said we need to improve the quality of the squad and for sure we need to improve the quality of this squad.
I was sure after seven days, 10 days, two weeks about this.
Then I made evaluations to understand which players I could count on and which players I can’t.
For sure, the squad needs to improve quality but in an important way.
Before we think about a place in the UEFA or Conference League because in this League the level is very high.
Now we’re in the middle and we have to think to build something important.
For this reason, I ask for patience and time because now the gap is very large and we need to work a lot, and also to try to build. And also improve the quality of the squad.
Are you expecting any transfer business to happen fairly soon?
No, but my expectation is to speak with my club and then to tell them my opinions.
This is only my expectation and then the club knows after I speak to club, they will make the decisions they want to make.
I repeat I’m a manager and I’m in a position where I have to make evaluations.
It’s happened and now I’m waiting to speak with the club to tell my opinion that the club has to take the best decision for the present, for the future and this situation is very simple.
On rebuilding the squad generally.
Every game we struggled. We have to know this. We have to be realistic.
We have to know that this season to get three points for us will be difficult, but we have to be ready to do this with all our strengths and our fans have to continue to be behind us in what we’re ready to do.
They’re fantastic the fans but I want to tell the truth and be clear with our fans.
Now we’re in the middle and we need time. This is the situation.
We need to continue to work hard for 24 hours a day but we have to know there is a lot, lot of job to do to rebuild the situation in a competitive way.
You talk about rebuilding and bridging the gap, how much is that about bringing in new players starting this month?
Honestly, I also want to be very clear because if we think, with the transfer window in January, we solve the situation.
I’m telling you a lie, not the truth. There is a lot of job to do.
If someone thinks the transfer market can solve the situation, first of all, in January it’s very difficult to buy. Very, very difficult.
Then you have to see if there’s the possibility to buy players that you need.
I think we have to continue to work hard in the way we’re doing and continue to improve the level of our players.
Then if there are some opportunities and the club is convinced by these opportunities to improve the team.
But I repeat, I don’t see in the transfer window the resolution of our problems.
The resolution of our problems now is to work and improve all many aspects of our squad. I repeat there is a lot of job to do.
If you think if you buy one or two players and you solve the situation, you are not right.
What do you know about Daniel Levy’s meeting with Joe Lewis and does this enhance your belief that the club will back you in the transfer market?
I think, I’m sure that we want the best for Tottenham.
The first person who wants to improve the situation is for sure [Levy].
I will have time to speak, also with the people who work within the club to try to understand well the situation, to understand if there is the opportunity to improve this squad in this transfer market.
But I think we will do the same thing that all of the teams are doing in these days.
I think it will be a good opportunity after two months to speak about the situation which now is very clear for me.
I know that everybody wants to improve the situation.
For sure we need time, we need passion, we need to continue to work in this way.
We have two ways to improve the situation, no? One is to improve the players that we have in our squad.
Another opportunity could be to improve the quality of the squad but as you know very well January is not easy for anyone.
And we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.
Are you close to getting what you what you want this month?
I spoke with the club and I had my thoughts about the situation and this is the most important thing.
Then the club has to decide the best way to go. I don’t have expectations.
I am a coach and I know that we have to solve many problems.
For me, in this moment the best possible way is to get the best from my players and improve the squad. In this moment, this is the only way I can go to improve the situation, to improve the squad.
Then the club knows very well our situation and it has to take the best decision.
Do you think there will be a lot of money spent by clubs in January?
Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know because I don’t know what happens.
For sure, after two months I spoke and said to the club my vision and what I’ve found here.
For me, this is the most important thing.
After this, the club has to decide the best way the club wants to go.
For me, the most important thing was speak to the club.
I did this and now the club has to decide what we have to do.
As I said before, I have only one way, I am a coach, I teach football.
My way in this moment is to coach my players, improve my players and improve the level of the squad.
Then we’ll see the decision of the club, if we want to improve in other aspects or not.
If there’s the possibility or not. For me, to be honest, it’s the right way with the club [regarding] my vision, my expectation and what I have found.
And the way we can improve.
Have you given Daniel Levy and Fabio Paratici a list of the players you want?
First of all, we have spoken about the situation. It was a good meeting.
A good meeting because the owner and Paratici, they started together this season from the start.
I arrived in the middle of the season and for sure they know the situation much better than me.
A good meeting, a good meeting to speak and tell them my thoughts about after two months I spent in Tottenham. It’s OK.
After that I repeat, I can give a lot of a lot of work to clubs I worked at in the past and now I am working in the present.
I can give this and then the decisions are for the club, not for me because the last word is always for the club.
On his transfer meeting with Daniel Levy and Fabio Paratici...
It was a good meeting also because when you have the possibility to speak to the owner and the sporting director - with Paratici I have the possibility to speak every day - but to have the possibility to speak with our owner it was important.
Also because I like to have this type of relationship, to be honest and to always tell the truth.
You know I don’t like to tell a good lie to keep a good relationship or to show me very soft or to be too polite.
It was good to tell the truth and it was a good meeting.
Now for me it’s OK, I asked the club time to take my evaluation.
The club asked after one month to have a meeting and I said no, I prefer to have another month to make the right evaluation.
It’s honest, to give more time to me and also the players, to show me who deserves to stay here.
Now the situation is very clear and I had this meeting, I was satisfied to have this conversation with the owner and now it’s OK for me.
Now I have only one way. It’s on the pitch and the training sessions every day.
My only way to improve the situation is to improve the level of my players and this way the level of the team is going to rise.
Then, the club know the situation and if they want to help me another way I appreciate it.
Otherwise, I continue to work the way I am working.I think that it’s not only for me but for every coach.
If you stay outside you can have a vision. You have to stay inside.
When you’re into the club you have the opportunity to understand very well the situation because you have the possibility to work with the players everyday, to see the structure, to see everything about the club.
Outside it’s difficult.
You can have one vision and only when you stay inside, you go into the club and then you can have the right evaluation about the environment, about the squad, about the players and I think this is normal not only for me but for every coach.
On doing late transfer business in January...
The transfer situation is not easy and a lot of time you have to wait for players at the end of this period to make new contracts.
I have the experience to know this and understand this and for sure every coach would like to have the players very soon, but the club has to take the best decision on this aspect and the important thing is the club knows my vision about the present and then the future and they have to decide the way they have to go.
On the make-up of the squad, signing a second striker and competition for places.
I think that especially in this league, because the level is very high and you have to play a lot of games, if you want to have ambition, to be competitive, to fight for something important, you have to have 20 [outfield] players.
Two players in every role. For sure, as a coach it’s very difficult to decide to keep Harry on the bench, but at the same time, when you play the way we played in the last period – six games in 17 days – every coach has to have the possibility to make rotations and don’t drop so much the level.
Otherwise it’s difficult for the coach to make rotations because you want the best, but you have to know that if you want to be competitive, you need a couple of players for every role.
Between the player who usually plays, and the other player, the gap has to be not so big in every role.
This is a problem for all the teams.It’s not easy [to find another striker].
For sure it’s not easy. In this moment, I think in case Harry has a problem – and I hope that never happens, honestly – there’s Steven Bergwijn I can play at number nine.
He has the right characteristics to play as a number nine.
I think it’s not simple to find a specific number nine, but if you’re unable to find a situation to buy players for the moment you want to rest Harry, you can take the best decision to play with a good player.