Jose Mourinho blamed a disrupted pre-season, in which a number of his players had coronavirus, for a dismal start to the campaign against Everton.
Spurs went down 1-0 to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s second-half goal in north London and it was a limp display by Mourinho’s men, who were well off the pace.
Mourinho, who did not name the players infected, said he “did not like his team” and they lacked intensity, but did give them mitigation in the shape of poor preparation.
“Harry Kane trained with us once,” he said. “Moussa Sissoko, a couple and I am not going player by player. For different reasons many of our players didn’t have proper pre-seasons.
“We had cases of positive Covid, we have the right not to say which players, but we had players, we had other players in quarantine due to proximity with positive players.
“We had a player in quarantine because he was on holiday in a country which the government quarantined, we had national teams where many of them went to their team so it was a difficult pre-season.
“I couldn’t expect them to be sharp, intense, agile. But I was expecting much more individually and collectively.
“It disappoints me, and that is where I have now to work. The players who didn’t have pre-season, we don’t have now the possibility to give them a pre-season but we have a lot of matches now to play consecutively and we have to use these matches, not just to win them and the knockout ones are obviously decisive ones with everything decided in 120 minutes or even penalties, and try to use this to improve the form of some players because some of them were really in trouble.”
Spurs had some decent chances in the first half but were complete no-shows after the break and Calvert-Lewin’s 55th-minute header was enough for Everton.
It came from Lucas Digne’s free-kick, but Mourinho was not happy with where the delivery was taken from.
“I didn’t like my team, but I didn’t like that so many referees on the pitch and on the touchline and in front of the screen allow a free-kick to be taken five or six metres in front to allow a completely different angle of delivery.
“I can complain now because I was complaining before the goal. But I didn’t like my team.”
For Everton, this was a statement of intent that this could finally be the year they crack the top six after a number of false dawns.
Carlo Ancelotti has been backed in the summer and all three signings – Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez – impressed in a win that could have been far more handsome.
The Italian is confident his side can challenge for a European spot this season.
“We are satisfied, I am satisfied, the performance of the team was brilliant,” he said. “I am pleased for the performance, it was an important one against a difficult team.
“I am pleased we started the season well and we showed we can compete which is the most important message to take. We can compete with everyone if the spirit is good, if the attitude is good and the players showed this.
“We said that our target is to try and reach European position, we started well. The problem we had last season a lot of the time we were up and down the first game was good, we have to see for the second and third. I have a lot of confidence, I had some before this game and now I have more but we have to be focused.”