In pictures: Southampton v Tottenham
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Tottenham boss Antonio Conte has admitted that he thinks Spurs are worse than they were three years ago. The Italian is the North Londoners’ third permanent head coach since Mauricio Pochettino and he is trying to lift the club back to the heights they reached under the Argentine.
Spurs were twice strong contenders for the Premier League title under Pochettino.
They went toe-to-toe with Leicester in 2015-16, only to slip away and somehow finish below Arsenal in third.
Their second attempt was much stronger. Pochettino’s side were challengers to Conte’s Chelsea team in 2016-17 but ultimately finished runners-up and seven points behind the Blues.
Spurs were then runners-up in the 2018-19 Champions League final before Pochettino was sacked seven months later.
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Conte is now in charge of returning Spurs to those trophy-chasing days following the failed spells of Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo.
The club have failed to finish in the top four since Pochettino’s departure but eight Premier League games unbeaten under Conte could provide a platform to elevate them into the Champions League places come May.
However, Conte has warned that it might take time for his squad to be as good as Pochettino’s side. That is despite him having a core of players – Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Harry Winks, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane – who all played under the now-PSG boss.
“Mauricio did a fantastic job here. He took a group of young players and they grew to become one of the contenders for the title,” Conte told the Evening Standard.
“I remember my first experience at Chelsea, Tottenham fought with us until the end. The previous season they fought until the end against Leicester.
“And then Tottenham was always in the first four positions. Now they have dropped a bit because many players left for different reasons.
“If we have to compare this Tottenham with the Tottenham of the past, in the past Tottenham was a team with many players with more experience in the League and in this competition. Tottenham had a good momentum in the past to win something.
“Now I think we are starting again to build something important. We lost many, many players compared to the past.
“Now there are young players and we have to wait for them to improve and get experience. Then also [we need] to get the right mentality that you must have for sure to win.”
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Conte has warned his players that improvement will only come if they apply themselves every day.
He added: “It means that you must be focused every day and to improve yourself every day. You have to start thinking about football not 24 hours [a day] but more than only two or three hours in your day. In this way you make yourself to be a winner.
“But to do this you need time and you need people that trust you with the right sensation, the right thoughts, every day.
“You can build a winning mentality but you need time. Especially, you need to have people around you to help build this.”
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