Antonio Conte believes that for Tottenham Hotspur to act as a big club they need to see Thursday’s north London derby against Arsenal as simply a chance to get three points towards an important target.
Realistically Spurs need to beat the Gunners at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this week in order to remain in the race for fourth place with four points between the two teams with three matches left. On the flip side, Mikel Arteta’s team know that if they can win at their local rivals’ home they will guarantee Champions League qualification for next season.
Conte believes that while the emotional side of the derby is clear, he believes that the very top teams simply see these games as another method of getting the points they need to reach their goals.
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“I understand the importance and I understand the rivalry between the two teams, but in the past, when I played other derbies, with Inter or Juventus, I always said that a derby is one game, or two games in one season, and a big team has to think that you have to win the derby, not because it’s your rival, but because you get three points, and these three points bring you [nearer] to winning something important at the end of the season, not only focused on beating your rival,” he said.
“Our mind has to be open for an important target, and for winning a derby to be a way to reach an important target. There is a big rivalry, we know very well, the players know very well, and we want to give satisfaction to our fans, and we’ll try to do our best, but it’s a game and I hope to breathe a fantastic atmosphere, like the last game in Anfield.
“It was the same in the past at our stadium, with our fans, and our fans have to push us from the start until the end, in a positive moment or a negative moment, they have to stay with us and we have to try to overcome this obstacle together.”
Conte hopes that Tottenham’s very recent experience at Anfield in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Saturday could prepare them well for another crunch game against strong opposition.
“We play another important game, we played against Liverpool and you know you are playing for a target, to take a place in the Champions League. I think we are prepared because only three days ago we played an important game, and now we have another,” he said. “The players know very well the importance of this derby. We know very well that if we don’t get three points then probably we finish in fifth in the table. We have this chance in our hands, to try to take this chance in the best possible way and then we will see, but I repeat: we have to be proud about the path we have taken since November.”
The last time Tottenham and Arsenal met, at the Emirates Stadium early in the season in September, the visitors collapsed to a 3-1 defeat under then boss Nuno Espirito Santo. Conte was watching closely that day and he believes that both sides are different animals now.
“It was a difficult period for my team. I think at that time, it was difficult to play, also because Tottenham’s season had started very well, with nine points from three games, and Tottenham was at the top and then, in the [next] seven] games, before I arrived, they got only six points, and for sure at that moment the confidence was down,” he said.
“The belief was not so high and for this reason I think that Arsenal won the game in an important way. I think, and I hope, on Thursday to see another type of game, also because I think many situations have changed and now we want to show that we are a good team and we can fight for a place in the Champions League.”
Since Conte was last in the Premier League as Chelsea manager, before heading back to Italy to win the Serie A title with Inter Milan, he has seen various changes, including the fall of Spurs down the table and the creation of a breakaway top three teams in the English top flight.
“Don’t forget that four or five years ago when I was at Chelsea, Tottenham was in the top four and the team was really, really strong. I remember very well we won the title and in second place was Tottenham. It was the same when Leicester won the title,” he explained.
“At that time, maybe Manchester City was a different team and Liverpool was a different team. Now, they have worked for a lot of years with the same coach, top coaches, Pep [Guardiola] and Jurgen [Klopp], and then also Chelsea with [Thomas] Tuchel. They gave continuity, they invest money, they worked a lot because to invest only money is not enough, but it’s important and because if you work with important players with quality it means you have a very strong team, and you can improve year by year.
“Now it’s very difficult because you find reality, with a great base, with great foundations. When I arrived at Chelsea, they were 10th the season before and we won the title. I arrived with Pep, Jurgen started before to work with Liverpool. There was Mourinho and Wenger, there was the best here.
“The problem now is City, Liverpool and Chelsea had time to work with the same coach to improve with big investment. For this reason now there is a gap. An important gap. The other teams missed something and for sure Tottenham missed something because Tottenham dropped.
“If you compare Tottenham three, four or five years ago to this moment they have dropped the level, but the situation in England is very clear. You have monsters, and you need to have time and patience, and you have Tottenham and Arsenal. United is strange because they have an important squad, finished second last season and in the transfer market added Cristiano Ronaldo, Varane and Sancho and they are fighting for sixth place.
“Maybe it means Arsenal and Tottenham did something incredible to overcome United, but only this. For sure, you can speak about the best four, the best six. If you are Tottenham you have to try to stay and fight for this achievement in this moment. If you start to work very hard and continue a process to improve the situation you can hope one day to try to fight for something important, but at the same time you have to be realistic because honesty is always important for the people.”
Source by Football London