Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League • England

Conte takes aim at ‘really poor’ Tottenham squad he inherited; lays down the gauntlet to Kulusevski

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte branded last year’s squad as “really poor”, and challenged Dejan Kulusevski to make good on his lofty ambitions.

Spurs kicked their campaign off in style with a thumping 4-1 victory over Southampton. The Saints took a surprise lead inside 12 minutes through James Ward-Prowse, though from then on it was all Tottenham.

Goals from Ryan Sessegnon, Eric Dier, a Mohamed Salisu own goal and Dejan Kulusevski saw Spurs take the lead and never look back. It also proved Tottenham can win even when Harry Kane and Son Heung-min don’t score.

Speaking to the BBC after the match, Conte described his side’s start as “perfect”.

“It was a perfect start for us, despite going behind,” said the Italian. “We started well because we were leading the game but we conceded a goal but after this we continue to play and we continued to believe in what we are working on in the training sessions.

“I liked the game a lot for the result but especially the way in which the result was created – creating many chances to score, good possession, good high and medium pressure and we were good when we lost the ball and the intensity to try and get it back.

“I saw a lot of positive things, but we are only in the first game. Today we have seen summer work with my players.

“Dejan [Kulusevski] made a big impact but also last season. He and Rodrigo [Bentaceur] integrated really good with the squad.

“Dejan has continued in this way but he has to continue to work in this way with his behaviour and ambition.

“He has a lot of ambition – he wants to become one of the best players in his role. I think this ambition is good, if he is humble and works to continue to work he can do that.”

Last year’s Tottenham squad “really poor” – Conte

In a separate interview with Sky Sports, Conte turned his attention to the club’s transfer business this summer.

Spurs have been lauded for getting six readymade first-teamers through the door in good time. In contrast, the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea are still scrambling around for new faces despite the season already being underway.

On the subject of Tottenham’s moves, Conte admitted the squad he inherited was “really poor” and required attention. He also fired a shot at the club’s medical department that has now been improved.

“The message was very clear that we’ve signed new players to improve our squad because our squad was really poor last season and the Champions League spot was a big achievement,” said Conte.

“Our first goal was to improve the squad, not just players physically but also mentally. We wanted the right players for my philosophy.

“Today I preferred to use players from last season because they are reliable than new players because we’ve only spent two weeks with some of those players because of injuries and Covid.

“We’ve used common sense to pick the players that have the right characteristics to improve our squad. We have to work to improve and we have an ambition to make ourselves better than yesterday.

“Being happy or not happy was not the problem. It was finding a solution to playing four competitions – to do this you need a squad of 20-22 players and honestly last season was really poor in the medical aspect. We have improved that aspect.

“The club always pays attention – they have shown common sense, not only to spend money, but to get players with certain characteristics to improve the squad.”