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Loss to Chelsea highlights Tottenham Hotspur’s january transfer window challenge

"It is important for patience, for me also to have patience," a glum Antonio Conte said after Tottenham’s 2-0 defeat against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg yesterday

Spurs is just about still in the competition but this was a match which showed the gulf in quality between the two sides. Chelsea should have scored more. Spurs didn’t ever look like scoring.

"There is a lot of jobs to do, in this moment, it is very difficult to understand which part you take to improve because there is a lot of situations to improve," Conte said.

"We need time, and patience. Everyone has to have patience, because Tottenham in the last years, the level has dropped a lot and now we have to fight to win every game."

Conte has made it clear he wants new signings for the squad and Spurs, while not flush with cash, could be one of the busier clubs in the January transfer window.

Conte believes, however, the issues are extensive. They will not be alleviated in one window.

"It is not simple to say 'go in the transfer market'. In January, it won't be easy and now the most important thing is to be focused and work to improve," he said.

While publicly acknowledging that a couple of signings won’t turn Tottenham into the team he wants, Conte will still expect the club to strengthen in January.

He stressed the "important gap" between Spurs and Chelsea, saying his former club was "much better than us". He’s right that Chelsea (and Liverpool and Manchester City) are far better than Spurs, and the other Premier League clubs, this season.

But, for Spurs, a fourth-placed finish and a place in next season’s Champions League would be fantastic. Conte was understandably downbeat after Spurs’s meek performance yesterday, yet the club’s league form has been good since he arrived in November.

Largely playing teams in the lower half of the table, Tottenham has won five and drew three of its league matches under Conte. A win in Tottenham’s next league match, against Arsenal, would take it above its arch-rival into fourth, with a match in hand. Spurs is not competing with the top three, it is competing for fourth with Arsenal, Manchester United and West Ham.

That will likely be a tight race. And one or two signings in January could make the difference for the second half of the season.

The January window is not the easiest time to make deals. There are several areas where Spurs needs to strengthen, with a lack of creativity and cutting edge near the top of Conte’s list of concerns. The club is reportedly interested in Wolves’ Adama Traore, reports The Athletic, with a plan to turn the powerful winger into a wing-back.

Whether intentionally or not, Conte’s comments have put pressure on his chairman, Daniel Levy, and Spurs’ managing director of football, Fabio Paratici. If there is a player available in January who Conte believes will improve his squad, Levy and Paratici will be expected to go and get him.

Levy is known as a shrewd negotiator who often concludes deals late in the window. Conte is known as a demanding coach who expects the club to deliver his transfer targets. If Conte thinks his club aren’t doing all they can to secure the signings he wants, he has no problem telling them.

One or two signings in January will not suddenly see Spurs on the same level as Chelsea. But it could be the difference between Champions League and Europa League soccer next season. And it could be the thing that convinces Conte this club is serious about catching up to the Premier League’s best.