Tottenham manager Antonio Conte said the “situation is not simple” at the club after his much-changed side were embarrassed by NS Mura to leave their Europa Conference League last-16 hopes hanging by a thread.
The Italian opted not to talk to his players after the defeat in Slovenia, where Amadej Marosa’s injury-time goal sealed the unlikely victory after Harry Kane looked to have salvaged a point for 10-man Spurs.
Kane chipped in after Tommy Horvat opened the scoring and Ryan Sessegnon’s red card reduced woeful Spurs’ numbers. But Marosa exposed some slack late defending by Davinson Sanchez to stun the Premier League team.
Former Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas told BT Sport the defeat was “shocking and embarrassing”, while ex-Spurs manager Glenn Hoddle added the team’s first-half performance was “dreadful”.
“I did not like what happened tonight,” said Conte. “I must be honest and tell you that after three-and-a-half weeks, I am starting to understand the situation.
“I am happy to stay here but at the same time I must be honest and tell you we need to work a lot to improve the quality of the squad. We are Tottenham and in this moment there is an important gap [to the top teams in England].
“If someone thinks that a new coach arrives and Conte won in the past and then I am a magician… But the only magic I can do is to work. To bring work and work to improve, to bring my methods, my ideas of football. But we have to understand that we need time.
“It is not simple because, in this moment for sure, the level of Tottenham is not so high.
“The situation now is starting to be very clear in my mind. I like to win and I play to win in every competition. This must be the same for my players.
“This road could be one metre or 100m. I am not scared, I am ready to go and do this path. But at the same time I want to be very honest – we have to work a lot and improve in many, many aspects.
“The club is outstanding outside – to create a stadium – but now we start from behind. I have found players that want to work and have great commitment, but sometimes it is not enough.
“We need time, but we have to do better in everything, everything, everything.”
Asked about what he had said to his players after the defeat, the former Italy boss added: “Usually I prefer to not speak to them after the game, especially when the game is not good because you are too involved emotionally. We will do it tomorrow.”
Defeat means second place in Group G is the best Spurs can hope to achieve. In their final group game, they host unbeaten Rennes, who are already guaranteed top spot courtesy of Thursday’s draw with Vitesse Arnhem.