Antonio Conte has admitted he is “scared” he does not have enough time to work with his Tottenham Hotspur squad and pleaded for patience as he aims to turn it into a team with a killer instinct.
The 52-year-old’s first match in charge ended in a dramatic 3-2 win over Vitesse in Thursday’s Europa Conference League clash as Tottenham had one player sent off before two visiting players were dismissed in what Conte described as a “crazy game”.
Conte replaced Nuno Espirito Santo on Tuesday despite previous reservations about taking a job midway through a campaign because of a lack of pre-season to work with his squad. After Sunday’s trip to Everton, the vast majority of the group will travel to represent their countries during the international break.
Following the win over Vitesse, Conte said: “We need time, we need time to work. This is the only aspect that I am afraid [of], I would like to have time to work because this team and I need to work together, to bring my tactical idea, the physical aspect, to know them much better than now.
“This is the only aspect I am a bit scared [of], a bit afraid [of]. I know there is this type of situation and for this reason we need a bit of patience.
“I have to be patient because it is a situation where we don’t have too much time to work. Through work we can improve a lot, a lot of space for improvement. This team is young and has ability but we have to work together.”
Spurs raced into a three-goal lead inside 28 minutes as Son Heung-Min scored the first goal of Conte’s reign before Lucas Moura and a Jacob Rasmussen own goal put the home side in command. However, Ramsussen triggered a comeback with a header at the other end and when Matus Bero curled home a second six minutes before the interval, all the fragility that had cost Espirito Santo his job suddenly returned.
Spurs centre-back Cristian Romero was shown a second yellow card just before the hour mark and Vitesse threatened to equalise before imploding themselves as defender Danilho Doekhl and goalkeeper Markus Schubert were both sent off in a frenetic second half.
“Those who know me very well, [know] I don’t like this type of crazy game,” said Conte. “I call them a ‘crazy game’. I want us to build a team [that] when there is the possibility to kill the opponent, you must kill. But my players have shown great commitment and resilience and this is a great aspect because this team also needs to win [by] suffering.”
Tottenham hung on to climb up to second in Group G — three points behind leaders Rennes, who beat NS Mura 1-0 in France — and Conte challenged his players to reach a football level that matches their state-of-the-art £1 billion stadium and training ground, two factors the Italian revealed were key in convincing him to join the club.
“For sure, this club has great potential. I was enthusiatic about the stadium, the training ground,” he said. “I don’t know in the world if another club has this facility and this was a reason I accepted to come here because I know that here I can work in the way I like.
“The club is a top club and I want to repay the club about the trust that they showed me. And for sure now in this moment, we have to focus on the pitch, the football aspect, to try to bring the same level is very difficult because I think the club with the stadium, with the training ground, for me is the best maybe in the world.”