Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Mauricio Pochettino determined to complete Tottenham Hotspur's last step to the top

Argentine ignoring speculation over his future to look at how his side can keep pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League title race

Mauricio Pochettino, centre, celebrates Tottenham Hotspur's win at Everton with Christian Eriksen, left, and Harry Kane. Action Images via Reuters
Mauricio Pochettino, centre, celebrates Tottenham Hotspur's win at Everton with Christian Eriksen, left, and Harry Kane. Action Images via Reuters

Mauricio Pochettino was not talking about Christmas. “It is the time to enjoy our present,” the Tottenham Hotspur manager said.

If the question was about Christian Eriksen’s contract, which expires in 2020, the temptation was to interpret the answer about the much-coveted Tottenham manager himself.

“Football is so dynamic,” he added. “It is changing every day, every season. Of course, the decision is going to happen, at the end of the season, or another decision is going to happen in the next few days, in January. It’s about negotiation, it’s about many things that happen.”

For Pochettino, 2019 offers the prospect of a move to Manchester United or Real Madrid.

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For Tottenham, it could bring a first league title since 1961, something that felt improbable when the summer concluded without them signing a player and the season started with Liverpool and Manchester City setting a fearsome pace.

Yet if Spurs beat Bournemouth on Wednesday, they could go second. If there are plenty of financial reasons why they should not win the league, there are footballing ones why they might.

They could be halted, Pochettino said: “If another team is better than us, another team like City or Liverpool or Chelsea or United or Arsenal. But we believe in our quality; we believe a lot in the way we play.”

That belief has been amplified after Tottenham’s finest performance and most emphatic result of the season, Sunday’s 6-2 thrashing of Everton.

Pochettino was proud then, whereas he surprised many with his dissatisfaction following August’s 3-0 triumph at Old Trafford.

“If you remember after Manchester United, our victory, I was so disappointed with some of the comments, the way we assimilate the victory,” he said. “After that we improve a lot and learn.”

They have been themes of a reign that has brought plenty of progress. Pochettino has such high-profile admirers that it is not necessary to underline what a fine job he has done, but it is nevertheless salient to remember the very different situation he inherited in 2014.

“We create altogether a massive platform that the fans are enjoying, the players are enjoying, we are enjoying,” the Argentine said. “Four-and-a-half years ago, I think it was a difficult start for everyone.

"I remember when we arrive in every single press conference in the first six months, it always was about how. How [to] reduce the gap of the top? How [to] reduce the [gap to the] top four? How [to] be competitive in the big games? How [to] be consistent? How? How? How? How? It was always many questions. After four-and-a-half years, I think we’re in a very good position.”

It is perhaps a better position than he envisaged. “I said in our first press conference after the World Cup that this is going to be one of the most difficult seasons,” Pochettino added.

“When many things were negative, when all the circumstances were not the best to start, we fight a lot and we took a massive challenge and we’re doing a fantastic job.”

Those fantastic efforts have not been reflected in silverware. Spurs could not catch Leicester City in 2016, a title challenge that came surprisingly quickly.

They have come second and third behind Chelsea and Manchester City in seasons when the eventual champions broke records.

It is the problem Pochettino has had, the reason why criticising him for not winning the title with the division’s sixth biggest wage bill is simplistic nonsense.

“Now the last step is the most difficult step,” he said. “It looks so close but sometimes it’s not so close.

"That is why it’s tough to keep going. But we have the energy and we’re going to try.”

Updated: December 26, 2018 08:19 AM

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