Here’s every single word Antonio Conte said after Tottenham Hotspur’s 4-1 victory against Southampton to open their Premier League season
Antonio Conte and Emerson Royal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton
Was that a perfect way to start?
It was a really good start for us. It was really important to have this reaction after 15-20 minutes we were 1-0 down, despite starting well, with great personality and good possession to create many situations to score. But then to stay 1-0 down was really important to see the reaction of my team.
The reaction was really good because we kept calm, we continued to play in the way that we know. To believe in what we tried before in this week before playing Southampton. We won three important points but the most important thing was the way we got three points, with really good football, with the ball, without the ball, with important pressure, also the way we decided to win the ball after we lost it was another important aspect.
We are working to implement football knowledge over the last season. For sure today we have seen this team has seven months of work on its back. I always say this. This season, we are starting with seven months of work and for me it’s very important because I can go another step, in another situation, to implement football knowledge and try to be stronger.
Was Ryan Sessegnon’s performance exactly what you want from your wing-backs?
I’m really pleased for Sess because we are working very well with him, especially on the physical aspect because in the past this player had many injuries and after one or two months, then again injury, muscular problems. He’s working well and we are giving him stability in the physical aspect. I think it’s very important that we signed a player like Ivan Perisic because he (Sessegnon) can see the way to learn something about Ivan. We are talking about a very important player in Ivan, a top player.
Sometimes it’s good to bring into your team players even if they are a bit over-age. If they are a good player with experience, they can bring this experience to improve young players in your squad. I think Sessegnon is doing this. I was really pleased because today he played a good game. Emerson played a good game. “Now we have to continue in this way.
Do you want more goals from Sessegnon, he just said you would have kıɩɩed him if he missed?
If you remember maybe five minutes before there was a cross and he was behind his opponent. On the bench we were really upset with him because he has to attack the second post and find the right position.
After three minutes then he scored and we were pleased and celebrated a lot because five minutes before he wasn’t in the same place to score. Today he scored another goal. He was always in our offensive position. It was good. I’m happy for him because he has great potential but has to show this potential.
Do the new signings add pressure, we saw Sessegnon and Kulusevski step up?
I was really surprised to read that someone was astonished that we sign six players in early time. I think with the club, our first target was to try to improve the squad compared to last season because last season I think the squad we finished the season with maybe 13 players. We were lucky to have no (more) injuries because we lost Skippy and Tanganga in January.
Our first target was to improve the squad and the numerical aspect and quality aspect. To play for competition and if we want to try to be competitive and stronger than last season, we need to have a squad. I think we work with common sense to sign players with specific characteristics for our system, for our target and the club work well. Yeah, we work together for the best of the club. I always say I do everything for the best of the club, not myself.
You said you signed players with specific characteristics, what were they?
The characteristics are to play intense football and to play this type of modern football, the players has to have quality, it is normal he has quality but at the same time he has to be strong physically, a good engine, stamina because this league is very, very difficult. It is totally different to other leagues and we need players with this characteristic to have quality but to be strong physically and to run, to run a lot. To bring intensity during a game because I like to press but you need to have a player strong to do high pressure and this type of football.
You named none of your new signings in the starting line-up, why was that?
Me, I am not surprised because I think that I use common sense because in this moment we are starting the new season and the old players reach a big achievement last season to get a place in Champions League. In the last 10 games I think we played really well and we had fantastic results. My message was very clear that I trust a lot in the old players and in this moment they are more reliable than the new players because they need to continue to work with us and continue to implement football knowledge.
With the old players, I am in a step forward. For this reason I prefer to count on the start on the older players but I think it was right after this game and the final result. At the same time I really enjoy and I am really happy because we have new signings that are going into our process and for sure they will help us to improve, but at the same time they have to know they have to fight and they have to give me the possibility to make rotations.
Now we are going to play one game a week but in September we start to play every three days and for sure we need to have rotation but for a club like Tottenham it is very important not to drop the level, don’t drop the quality when you make rotation. That was the first target and I was very clear with the club and the club was totally in agreement with me.
What is the realistic expectation for this season? How far can you go?
Honestly, I don’t know. my realistic expectation is to go game by game and to understand which is in this moment our position in the Premier League. because I’m seeming also the other teams improved a lot, signed a lot of players and the transfer market has not finished and all the teams tried to improved.
We have to go step by step. It’s very important to have seven months of work at our back, for me, for the players with me. It will be very important because I’m not starting from zero. Honestly in this moment I have a big difficulty to answer what is our realistic target. We have to try to be stronger than the past and we are working for this. Then we go game by game.
Next week we have a game like Chelsea and with Chelsea last season I have seen a lot of difference. A different level. We played three games in 12 days and we lost three games and didn’t score. They showed in these three games that they were much better than us. Realistically we have to wait before making judgement for this season.
Would merely a top four finish be satisfactory?
But to finish top four in England is always a success. If you speak with the owner (laughs) he’s ready to sign every season to finish top four, especially in England because it means that with six top teams in England, if you finish top four last season then United and Arsenal missed finishing in the Champions League.
You know Liverpool, City, Chelsea, maybe if a disaster doesn’t happen they stay there. So you fight. Then you know also the strength of United, but you have seen what Arsenal are doing with Arteta in these many years to improve the team. It’s not easy but I am a person who has ambition and I want to transfer the right ambition to my players with no presumption and arrogance. I only know one way to work, to continue to improve. I think that if we continue to do this we are stronger than last season.