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Premier League: Antonio Conte tempers expectations at Tottenham

Head coach Antonio Conte has warned that Tottenham Hotspur aren't ready to become serious title challengers until they start regularly splashing the cash.

Spurs sit fifth in the Premier League, 13 points adrift of leaders Arsenal, after suffering a 2-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa on New Year's Day.

They are without a win since returning to action following the mid-season break for the World Cup, having played out a 2-2 at Brentford on Boxing Day.

The situation is not overly serious at present with just a four-point gap to Newcastle United in third, while Manchester United are only two points clear in fourth.

But Conte was clearly frustrated following the loss to Villa, especially when considering it was their third defeat in their last four home outings.

Spurs are 7/2 to finish in the top four, with Man Utd priced at 4/6, Newcastle available at 6/5, while Liverpool, who are sixth - two points behind Spurs with a game in hand - can be backed at 2/5.

Depth an issue for Italian tactician

Conte has never been afraid to voice his opinions, sometimes talking himself into trouble, and he didn't hold back after the full-time whistle blew on Sunday.

The Italian was drafted in to try and end Tottenham's long wait for silverware, last lifting a trophy when they beat Chelsea in the 2007-08 League Cup final.

After replacing Nuno Espirito Santo in November 2021, Conte led Spurs to a fourth-placed finish in the league, reached the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup, but underperformed in the FA Cup and Europa Conference League.

They exited the Carabao Cup in round three this season, losing to Nottingham Forest, but have booked a spot in the last-16 of the Champions League and are 16/1 To Win Outright.

Spurs return to that competition in February and are 12/5 in the Full Time Result market to win the first leg of their last-16 tie at 23/20 AC Milan, while the draw is 23/10.

However, Conte hasn't expressed great confidence in terms of hopes of challenging deep in any competition unless they show intent in the transfer window, admitting he had to rely on a small group to achieve a fourth-place finish last term.

Conte commented: "I continue to repeat that last season we made a miracle."

"It happened, why? Because we played only one competition and we played with 12 or 13 players that didn't have injuries in the last 15 games.

"We did a miracle, but I knew what the situation was and then I was very clear with the club [about what was needed] to become title contenders."

Coming weeks key to keeping Conte

Spurs handed over an 18-month contract when Conte arrived and the former Chelsea boss is yet to agree an extension, therefore, he'll be free to leave at the end of 2022-23.

With that in mind, Conte holds all the cards and if Tottenham fail to back him in the transfer market this month, he could be on his way when the season concludes.

There was a sizable outlay of funds over the summer with Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Cristian Romero, Ivan Perisic, Clement Lenglet, Djed Spence and Fraser Forster arriving for a combined £172million.

The 53-year-old, however, has stressed the importance of adding further to ensure they can keep moving forward as their rivals continue to enhance their ranks.

Conte added: "To become title contenders, to become a team ready to fight to win something, you need to have a solid foundation, which means to have 14 or 15 strong players, with quality, and the other young players to develop.

"Every season, you can add two players, but two players priced £50m, £60m, £70m. In this way, it means you are signing important players who can improve the quality and the level of your team.

Big month ahead for north Londoners

Tottenham will be eager to bounce back from Sunday's loss when they travel to Crystal Palace on 4th January.

Palace are 9/4 in the Full Time Result market with Spurs 6/5 and the draw available at 12/5.

They follow that outing with a third-round FA Cup tie at home to League One Portsmouth, before a testing run of Premier League fixtures follows.

The second north London derby of the campaign takes place on 15th January, with Spurs on home turf and eager to earn bragging rights after losing the reverse 3-1 in October.

Conte's men are also set to face Manchester City twice in 18 days as they head to the Etihad on 19th January, before hosting the Citizens on 5th February.

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