Antonio Conte delivered a confusing verdict on Tottenham’s dismal display against Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Italian tactician, who took over from Nuno Espirito Santo last month, saw his side lose 3-0 at Selhurst Park in a lacklustre display. The result leaves Spurs ninth in the Premier League table, six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal.

“We need to improve a lot of things. The performance was not good, and we need to reflect on it,” Conte said after the game. “We didn’t play with the right intensity, and we didn’t defend well.”

But while Conte was critical of his team’s display, he also hinted that he was satisfied with some elements of their performance. “I saw some positive things, especially in the first half,” he said. “We had some good moments, but we need to be more clinical in front of goal.”

This mixed assessment of Tottenham’s performance left many fans scratching their heads. On the one hand, Conte seemed to acknowledge that there were serious problems with the team’s play. On the other hand, he suggested that there were some positives to take from the game.

One possible explanation for Conte’s ambivalent appraisal may lie in his long-term vision for Tottenham. Conte is known for his meticulous planning and attention to detail. He may be using games like the one against Palace to experiment with different tactics and formations, in order to find the best way to get the most out of his players.

Indeed, Conte hinted at this in his post-match interview. “We are working hard on the training ground to find the right balance,” he said. “It will take time, but I am confident that we will get there.”

Another possibility is that Conte is trying to motivate his players. The Italian has a reputation as a hard-taskmaster, and he is known to demand a lot from his teams. Perhaps his mixed assessment of Tottenham’s performance is a way of challenging his players to improve in certain areas, while also acknowledging that there is still work to be done.

Whatever the explanation, Tottenham fans will be hoping that Conte can quickly turn around the team’s fortunes. After a bright start to the season, which saw the club win their first three games under Nuno, Spurs have endured a mixed run of form. They have won just two of their last six league games, and were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by West Ham earlier this month.

Conte’s appointment was seen as a bold move by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who hopes that the former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager can lead the club back to the heights of the Mauricio Pochettino era. But Conte faces a tough task to do so, with many of Tottenham’s players looking out of form.

One player who has come under particular scrutiny is Harry Kane. The England captain has yet to score a league goal this season, and has looked some way short of his best in recent games. Conte will be hoping that he can get Kane firing again, but it remains to be seen how he plans to do so.

Another area of concern for Tottenham is their defence. The team has conceded 16 goals in 11 league games this season, a figure that is the fourth-worst in the division. Conte will be looking to tighten things up at the back, but he will also need to find a way to get his team scoring more goals.

So far, Spurs have managed just 16 league goals this season, with only six teams scoring fewer. Conte will be looking for more from his attacking players, including Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura, who have both struggled to make an impact in recent games.

Overall, there is no doubt that Tottenham are a team in transition. Conte has only been in charge for a matter of weeks, and it will take time for him to get his ideas across to his players. But if he can get them playing with more intensity and focus, Spurs fans might start to see some signs of progress.

Conte’s verdict on Saturday’s game may have been confusing, but his message to his players is clear: there is a lot of work to be done, but he is confident that they can improve. Tottenham fans will be hoping that he is right.