Antonio Conte believes Tottenham are moving in the right direction after a busy summer transfer window, but warned they cannot yet focus on closing the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool.
Spurs have made six major signings after a strong finish to last season saw them pip rivals Arsenal into fourth place and Champions League qualification.
Tottenham began the new campaign at home to Southampton on Saturday, but the Italian tried to play down talk they could challenge Premier League champions City and Liverpool, who have both had their respective managers of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp in position for more than six years .
“I think we are going in the right direction, but you know very well that you have to have a little patience,” Conte said.
“We know that in England it is difficult to fight to win, but we want to try to be competitive, to try to improve on last season and this is our aim. If you ask me about City or Liverpool, my answer is that we are talking about two of the best clubs in the world who have worked with the same coaches for seven (sic) years.
“Now they are in my opinion in a position where it is very difficult for the others to close the gap, but we have to do this. Also because (to catch) a City and Liverpool, you have to spend £100m for six players, they go and spend it for one player or two players £100 million and this is the difference.
“You have to run behind and they stay in front of you, but you know very well that they deserve to stay there because they work very well to have the same coach and support the coach, Klopp, Guardiola and (Thomas) Tuchel, and they deserve this.
“To be a strong team, you have to have stability and a vision. The idea must be very clear, and then you will see that you go step by step and try to reduce this gap.”
After taking over at Tottenham in November, Conte experienced a series of ups and downs during his first few months in charge.
The 53-year-old was able to guide Spurs into the top four but required his ambition to be matched at the end of the campaign.
The answer was the permanent signings of Ivan Perisic, Fraser Forster, Yves Bissouma, Richarlison and Djed Spence while defender Clement Lenglet joined on loan from Barcelona.
But Conte is not getting ahead of himself when it comes to competing with City and Liverpool, adding: “Our aim at the moment is not to close the gap.
“It’s trying to be better compared to last season. We know that last season we reached fourth place and in my opinion that was a big, big achievement, especially as we finished the season with only 13 players.
“The first aim, our aim, the club’s aim was to try to improve the squad in quality and numerically, because even with the numerical aspect of the squad it was not enough. That was our first aim.
“Then you know very well that you cannot reach the best, the optimum in just one year or only after seven months. You know you need some patience, but at the same time it is important to have ambitions to try to be competitive, to try to fight for the best.
– The ambition must be the best. Then the reality may be different, but our ambition, because this kind of ambition can push me, push my players, the club, without being overconfident or arrogant I repeat, but this ambition must push us to give 120 percent every day of our lives in our work.”
Spurs will be without Oliver Skipp (heel) on Saturday and will need to check on new signing Bissouma due to a minor hamstring problem. Summer addition Richarlison has been suspended.