Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte praised his team’s progress and called on his players to build on their improved recent form when they face Aston Villa this weekend.
Spurs have won five of their last six league games and sit fourth, level on 54 points with Arsenal in fifth but their north London rivals have a game in hand.
Conte replaced Nuno Espirito Santo in November, with Tottenham ninth in the standings and five points off the Champions League places.
“We have to continue in this way… After hard work, we improved a lot from the past,” Conte told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Villa Park. “I’m starting to see the right maturity and solidity of my team.
“I came in November this season and didn’t have the same time as other managers, the pre-season to build your team with players you wanted to sign in the summer.
“It’s important for me to have more time to spend with my team, to improve the tactical and physical aspects, the mentality with analysis to prepare the game… For this reason the team is improving and you can see that in our football now.”
Ryan Sessegnon and Sergio Reguilon have returned to training, Conte added but midfielder Oliver Skipp remains unavailable for the game against Villa, who are 11th in the table with 36 points.
Conte also heaped praise on Harry Kane, saying it is difficult to improve the striker but he will push him to be “one of the best in the world and in history”.
“I think he deserves an important position in the world of football,” Conte said of Kane, who has scored 22 goals in all competitions for Tottenham this season.
“I think Harry also he has the right age to show that he can be one of the best, best in the world and in history… He’s of the right age to consolidate this and be one of the best.
“It’s very difficult to improve him but we’re trying to work and push him to the top ambition, to be the best striker.”