Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte has warned his under-performing players they are all on trial after their embarrassing night in the Europa Conference League.
Spurs were beaten 2-1 by Slovenian minnows NK Mura – the lowest ranked club in the third-tier European competition who were only formed in 2012 and had lost all four of their previous games – as the size of the task Conte inherited was laid bare.
The Italian said after the defeat that having had just three weeks in the role he can now understand what he is dealing with and that Spurs are at a “not so high” level.
With the January transfer window just around the corner, Conte is assessing his squad before reporting back to the club, which on Thursday night’s evidence could be bad news for a number of players.
“I’m making my evaluations and then I’ll speak with the club but I’m ready to continue to work in this way,” Conte said.
“But it’s important that we have to know that the situation is not simple, simple, no. It’s not enough to do this [clicks fingers] and change the situation.
“We need time, we need passion, we need work and I’m here for this. It doesn’t mean that we have to change a lot. I’m ready to do what the club want to do. But now, the situation is very clear.”
The defeat to Mura, who are fifth in the Slovenian league and had to play in Maribor because their stadium is not big enough to host matches in Uefa competitions, represents the nadir of Spurs’ fall from grace.
Under Mauricio Pochettino they were challenging for the top domestic honours while also making it to the Champions League final in 2019.
Things went south quickly after that and neither Jose Mourinho or Nuno Espirito Santo were able to stop the slide.
In Conte they appointed a serial winner, who has won a league title with Juventus, Chelses and Inter Milan, but a man who will take no prisoners.
And in his heated press conference after Tottenham’s night of embarrassment, he was keen for his message about the state of the club to be heard.
I’m making my evaluations and then I’ll speak with the club but I’m ready to continue to work in this way
“For sure, we need players with the right mentality and with the quality, players that deserve to play for Tottenham and aspire to be competitive, to fight for this shirt, to win something,” he said. “For sure, we need this.
“Honestly, I’m working with the team for three or four weeks and I want to tell you that I have found a great commitment, a great ability and there is the will, the desire to improve but now more time has passed and I’m making my evaluations directly, not through the TV or through other persons, but directly, and for sure, we need to improve a lot to reduce the gap with the top teams.
“I want to be honest. I repeat, I’m not scared to face this situation, but it is important that everybody understands.”
Spurs will have the chance to bounce back when they visit Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday.
Having taken a full-strength squad to Europe, Conte will assess the players on Friday and Saturday ahead of the trip to Turf Moor.
Cristian Romero (hamstring) is definitely out, while Giovani Lo Celso (knock) and Steven Bergwijn (illness) will be assessed.
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