Antonio Conte said he is not a “magician” after the size of his task at Tottenham was laid bare by Thursday night’s Europa Conference League embarrassment.
Spurs, Champions League finalists two-and-a-half years ago, were beaten by Slovenian minnows NK Mura – the lowest ranked club in the third-tier European competition who were only formed in 2012 and had lost all four of their previous games.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the tricks he has to pull off to turn Tottenham into a force.
Can he get some players to produce a disappearing act in the January transfer window?
Conte could not have been more open about how he feels about the overall quality of the squad he has to work with after their Slovenian humiliation, insisting that “you can push a car at maximum level and sometimes it is not enough to be competitive”. There has been a rebuild going on for seemingly two years, but a lot of dead wood remains at the club and Conte will have seen that with his own eyes. The likes of Dele Alli, Harry Winks, Matt Doherty, Davinson Sanchez have been long-term under-performers and the end of the road may be coming for them and Conte will hope some of them will perform a disappearing act in the January transfer window.
Can Fabio Paratici can pull some rabbits out of the hat?
For those players to leave football managing director Fabio Paratici might also have to get in on the sorcery by trying to offload them in January as none of them are exactly saleable assets at the moment. But the Italian, who worked with Conte at Juventus, must find a way of refreshing the squad and giving his head coach a chance of working his magic. That could involve getting chairman Daniel Levy under his spell and convincing him to reinvest any funds received for players and maybe a bit more to try and bring in the calibre of player that Conte wants.
What does Conte have up his sleeve to turn this around?
Conte is one of the best tacticians and training ground coaches in the world, which makes Tottenham’s coup to get him even more impressive. But in this instance, the former Chelsea man’s prop is hard work, saying: “The only magic I can do is to work. To bring work and work to improve, to bring my methods, my ideas of football.”
A blessing in disguise?
Conte is not helped by a frantic period where very little time will be spent on the training ground, trying to make this current squad better. Going forward, what would be an embarrassing exit from Europe’s third-tier competition might not be the worse thing, especially as if they do qualify they will have to play an extra knockout round.