Mauricio Pochettino has admitted Tottenham must strengthen their squad this summer after questioning the club’s readiness to win a major trophy.
At the start of the month Spurs were still the hunt on three fronts this season but slip-ups in the Premier League and defeat to Gent in the Europa League mean they are now realistically down to one.
The FA Cup is full of hurdles too. Even if they overcome Millwall in the quarter-finals, Tottenham are likely to have to beat two of the league’s top six if they are to end their nine-year wait for silverware.
It means Pochettino’s men may be left chasing a place in the top four again, a scrap that resumes on Sunday at home to ninth-placed Stoke.
A second consecutive season in the Champions League would be a considerable achievement – one Tottenham have never achieved before – but there is a sense Pochettino, and his talented group of players, need more.
“I think that we have pushed the expectation higher but that is normal because last season we were there – second, third in the league and that is good,” Pochettino said.
“But my question is maybe we are not ready. It’s like the stadium, if we want to move today we are not ready to play there.
“We need to wait, build the foundations. It’s a problem always – to be patient, to arrive.
“But the important thing is the club. Our chairman has built the foundation. New facilities on the training ground, new stadium to provide and to be a better team, better club, bigger club.
“We’re on the way to build one of the best clubs in Europe. But now we must be patient.
“We have patience to build and try to work hard and try to find the players that we can add to achieve that. Work hard and be clever; that is very important.”
Tottenham cannot compete with the likes of Chelsea and the Manchester clubs in the transfer market and their spending power has been restricted further while their new stadium is being built.
But Pochettino has relied heavily on the same core of players this season, with Victor Wanyama the only signing from last summer to have made a positive impression.
By contrast, Vincent Janssen, Moussa Sissoko and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou have all struggled.
“Always football is about quality. And being clever,” Pochettino said.
“But it’s true. It’s always about improving. We must add quality to the team if we want to fight for big things. And we will try, like always in football.
“Now is not the moment to start to talk. I think as always it’s our job as a club to find the right profile and player that can play for us.”
Pochettino sympathy for Ranieri
Stoke have taken only two points from a possible 14 against the top six sides this season but it remains to be seen how Spurs will be affected by playing for 51 minutes with 10 men against Gent on Thursday.
They can ill-afford a slip at White Hart Lane with Chelsea 10 points clear at the top, while breathing down their necks are Arsenal, Liverpool and in-form Manchester United.
At this stage last year, Tottenham were chasing Leicester for the title and Pochettino expressed sympathy for Claudio Ranieri, who was sacked as Foxes boss on Thursday, nine months after winning the league.
“I feel very disappointed, very sad for him,” Pochettino said.
“One month ago he was nominated as FIFA’s best manager in the world and today he is sacked. How is football?
“It’s unbelievable. That is football. It’s too difficult to explain. One month ago he was the best manager in the world. How is it possible that today he is not anymore there?”