Mauricio Pochettino has said he knows within 50 seconds of a match whether Tottenham will be off their game.
Spurs host Gent at Wembley in the Europa League on Thursday, looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit from their dismal display in the first leg in Belgium last week.
A 3-0 thrashing of Fulham in the FA Cup on Sunday saw Tottenham back at full pelt, but inconsistency has been a regular feature of their form in recent weeks.
They have won three out of their last seven in all competitions and Pochettino believes his side often set the tone at the start.
“When we start a game, if you only watch 50 seconds, you don’t need to be a genius to know we may struggle and have some problems in that game,” Pochettino said.
“In that moment it’s too difficult to change. We changed the formation at half-time to try and lift them but it was impossible.
“The problem is when you start not in a good way, it’s too difficult to change that perception and then you give a very good signal to the opponent that you are not focused on the game.
“You need to change that mentality.”
Tottenham are still favourites to progress but Gent know if they can score one away goal, their opponents will need three.
Crashing out of the Europa League would come as a bigger blow than in previous seasons, given Spurs have a genuine chance of winning the competition and appear unlikely to catch Chelsea in the Premier League.
The club have not won a European trophy since 1984 – or any silverware since lifting the League Cup in 2008 – but Pochettino says there is no short-cut for a club of Tottenham’s financial muscle.
“We cannot buy time, that is the most important thing for us,” Pochettino said.
“You never know in football, but in a short period you cannot do it – only if you have money enough to buy the best players in the world. Then you maybe don’t need much time.
“But the process we are in and with our philosophy we need time. We are showing a good basis but now it’s time to develop the winning mentality.”
They must also find a winning mentality at Wembley, where Spurs struggled to their cost in the Champions League, as two home defeats all-but ended their hopes of reaching the knock-out stages.
Tottenham have sold out the 90,000-capacity stadium for Thursday’s match and beating Gent would create a more positive feeling on the back of their victory there against CSKA Moscow in December.
Harry Kane believes the atmosphere under the famous arch is even better than at White Hart Lane.
“White Hart Lane is obviously a lot smaller and the crowd are on top of you. We have a great atmosphere there,” Kane said.
“But at Wembley it is even better to be honest with you. Even though the fans are not as close to the pitch, having 90,000 there is incredible.
“I think it’s a full house again so hopefully we can use it to our advantage.”
Tottenham youngsters Marcus Edwards and Kyle Walker-Peters both trained with the first team on Wednesday although Pochettino is not expected to make many changes.
Erik Lamela has begun running again as he continues his recovery from a hip problem but the club said Danny Rose remains “a number of weeks away from full training”.
It places in doubt the full-back’s availability for England’s friendly against Germany in four weeks’ time.
“I hope he will be good for that but I cannot say anything more,” Pochettino said. “We don’t know. It’s too difficult to say.”