Antonio Conte pulled no punches in his assessment of Tottenham after losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final, acknowledging “there’s no comparison” between the two teams.
Spurs were well beaten at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with two defensively poor goals allowing Chelsea to build up what proved to be an unassailable lead before half-time.
Japhet Tanganga first saw his pass cut out by Marcos Alonso, who fed Kai Havertz to open the scoring five minutes in.
Tanganga then saw his unchallenged headed clearance strike Ben Davies and go into his own goal, with Spurs failing to even muster a single shot before the break.
Conte altered his system at half-time, changing to a back four and bringing on Tanguy Ndombele in midfield – Spurs were better, but their five shots was still only a little over half of Chelsea’s nine in the second period.
According to Spurs’ expected goals (xG) of 0.37, they would have been extremely fortunate if they had managed to breach Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal, while Chelsea’s 2.2 accentuated just how much more threatening – and clinical – they were.
For Conte, it was a brutal reminder of how far Spurs still have to go to be able to consider themselves competitive rivals of the likes of Chelsea, whom he was facing at Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving them in July 2018.
“It was a difficult game, difficult from the start,” Conte told Sky Sports. “Chelsea showed to be much better than us.
“The first half, we struggled a lot from the start but we know that we are talking about one of the best teams in Europe, in the world.
“Last season they won the Champions League. If you compare the two teams, there is not a comparison.
“We are talking about a team ready to win – we have seen the difference between the two teams.
“It is not easy to play at Stamford Bridge, the way they were very concentrated, they won the ball every time and then we conceded also a goal [that was] unlucky.
“When you start the game and after a few minutes they score, for sure the game becomes very difficult, but I know the situation, it’s very clear in this moment there is an important gap [between Spurs and the best teams].
“We have to try to fight to stay in the league in a good position, but if we think we are close, I think we are not in the right way.”
The defeat and Conte’s scathingly honest appraisal of Spurs’ situation might be hard to stomach for some, but the Italian reiterated the need for patience and highlighted the importance of not sugarcoating anything for his team.
“There is a lot of jobs to do,” he continued. “In this moment, it is very difficult to understand which part you take to improve because there is a lot of situations to improve.
“We need time, and patience. Everyone has to have patience, because Tottenham in the last years the level has dropped a lot and now we have to fight to win every game.
“I started my experience with Tottenham and every game we have fought, and now we struggle to win the game, it wasn’t a game you could say it was easy.
“We have to be humble, to understand the situation at the moment and continue to work to improve our players, then we will see. It is not simple to say go in the transfer market, in January it won’t be easy and now the most important thing is to be focused and work to improve.
“The results in the league were good, we reached the semi-final in the EFL Cup and for Tottenham at this moment that is a good target.
“I am always very honest with my players, we have to clap the performance of Chelsea. I like to tell the truth and with a good lie you don’t go anywhere. They showed to be a really good team, much better than us.
“We have to try to change this situation, slowly, slowly. It is impossible to change the situation in one or two transfer windows.
“There is a lot of jobs to do in Tottenham and we need a lot of time. It is important for patience and for me also to have patience.”