Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte is looking to temper what he described as unrealistic expectations of a top-four finish in the Premier League after his side were booed off following a damaging 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa.
Spurs paid for a lacklustre display against Villas as second-half goals from Emiliano Buendia and Douglas Luiz gave the visitors all three points.
Tottenham conceded first for the 10th fixture in a row and have dropped to fifth in the table following Manchester United’s win at Wolves on New Year's Eve.
Spurs were tipped to mount a serious title challenge after Conte guided the North Londoners to a fourth-place finish in the league last season.
The Italian described that achievement as a “miracle” and said he had expected the squad's limitations to be exposed this term as the club looks to play catch up on their rivals, despite recruiting Clement Lenglet, Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissouma and Richarlison last summer.
“I know what is the reality because I am the coach,” he said. “The club knows very well what are my thoughts on the situation. The situation was very clear. I continue to work and to improve and to help you to improve the club, to create a solid foundation and then to develop.
“You have to know that there are clubs who can invest £200 million or £300 million and others with different policies and I repeat you have to respect the policy.
“The policy has to be very clear with all people otherwise we created a situation that’s not positive for the environment to create expectations that are not realistic, honestly.
“I was expecting this moment. Now we have to start to fight strong, because the situation in this league you can slip quickly.
“If you ask me if I’m scared, I’m not scared. I believe in my work, I believe in these players, but don’t ask me for things I cannot promise you.”
Spurs v Villa ratings
Spurs were booed off after a third home defeat in five matches with chants aimed at chairman Daniel Levy during the second half.
Conte insisted: “I continue to repeat that last season we made a miracle.
“I was very clear with the club because in this moment and before to become a title contender, because I remember very well in the summer at the start people talked about Tottenham as title contenders but in my experience it was a bit crazy to read this.
“People think you arrive and you win. This can happen for a team that are used to winning in the past. But if you are not used to it it means you have to create this situation and for this reason you need time and patience.
“I understand that the fans are disappointed because they can say ‘but we’ve been patient for a long time’, I understand it but the situation is this. If you want the truth I can tell you the truth.”
Unai Emery praised the focus of his Aston Villa team after they earned a third win in four matches since his arrival.
“We spent yesterday, the 31st of December, here in London in a hotel and we wanted to show this afternoon the match is our priority. The players did a very good performance,” ex-Arsenal boss Emery said.