LONDON – Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino insisted on Friday that Spurs have shed their “soft” label, and are mentally equipped to bounce back from defeats at Burnley and Chelsea to win this weekend’s north London derby with Arsenal.
A long-shot Premier League title bid appears to have eluded Pochettino’s men in the past week, as they now trail Liverpool by nine points.
But Spurs still retain a four-point lead over fourth-placed Arsenal in the race for Champions League qualification, and Pochettino is adamant he has made his team a tougher proposition than when he arrived five years ago.
“I can talk from when we are arrived. We are changing that perception that Tottenham were a little bit soft,” said Pochettino.
“I think the most important thing is that we are fighting in every single game. We can win or we can lose, we can finish second, first, third or fourth, fifth or six.
“We’ll see what happens, but the most important thing is that the team is fighting.”
Spurs had beaten the odds all season to remain in the title race despite a host of problems including injuries, a lack of new signings and a second season playing at their temporary home Wembley.
And Pochettino claimed Tottenham should still be getting praise for holding a lead over Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea with just 10 games to go rather than criticism for recent defeats.
“Everyone before the start of the season (would) sign to be in the position that we’re in today, and you’re asking me, ‘It’s only four points, that Arsenal or Manchester United are below us, or Chelsea’,” he added.
“I think we’re living in different realities because, with all the circumstances, Tottenham deserve big praise to be in the position that we’re in at this moment of the season.
“Of course we’re disappointed in the last two results, but we need to keep going and trust in our team. Of course it’s going to be tough on Saturday, but we believe we can deliver a good job.”
Even Harry Kane’s return from injury has not helped Spurs’ cause in the past two games, and Pochettino laughed off suggestions the England captain’s return has actually upset the balance of a side that won all four Premier League games without him.
“It makes me laugh, it is unbelievable, but that is the era we are living in,” said Pochettino.
“Harry is one of the best strikers, players in the world. For different circumstances we didn’t win, but Harry is one of the best players, not only here in Tottenham, in England, in Europe and the world, and that is no doubt and there is no debate.”AFP