Today Tesco posted a 0.1% increase in UK like-for-like sales - not wildly impressive, perhaps, but nevertheless a major improvement on the previous quarter, and the first time in quite a while the numbers have been heading in the right direction. It wasn’t enough to impress the analysts, however.

“Those looking for a quick turnaround from Tesco will be disappointed by this latest set of results,” said Neil Saunders of consultancy Conlumino. He said carpet-bombing with coupons was responsible for the uptick in UK sales. “In our view, this is a short-term solution that treats the symptoms of Tesco’s illness but does very little in the way of offering a permanent cure.”

John Ibbotson of Retail Vision was even more hostile. “The £1bn Tesco has ploughed into fixing its UK operation was supposed to dramatically improve its stores, people and products,” he said. “It has thrown a lot of money at the problem and produced only the hollowest of victories.”

He dismissed the improvement in LFL sales as “an irrelevance, given the slashing of margins and the resulting drop in profits”.

For his part, Philip Clarke made it very clear that he sees today as only the beginning of a long, hard road - underplaying, if anything, the significance of the improvement.

Despite the mounting pressure on him, Clarke has cut a relaxed, charming figure when dealing with the press since acceding to the top role. But today he seemed noticeably less affable, dealing curtly with journalists at this morning’s briefing (even if he did fetch a glass of water for the FT reporter who suffered an ill-timed coughing fit).

It may just have been the time constraints. Or maybe the pressure is (understandably) taking its toll. Previously, Tesco has been able to point at reliably growing profits abroad as a sign that the empire as a whole remains in good health. Strife in Asia - largely not of Tesco’s own doing - and across Europe means the retail giant no longer has that comfort.

Ibbotson said Tesco sticking with Fresh & Easy was like the PM giving an embattled minister the dreaded vote of confidence. “You know they’ll be spending more time with their family within the week,” he quipped.

Right now that probably sounds like a very attractive option.