It took a battling performance, but it was all smiles for Spurs fans on Sunday as Mauricio Pochettino’s side came from behind to defeat a stubborn Burnley at White Hart Lane, after goals from Dele Alli and Danny Rose cancelled out Ashley Barnes’ opener for the Clarets.
Despite a difficult October and November period, in which they only earned one win in ten, Spurs seem to have gotten over their pre-Christmas slump with four wins from their last five. This latest victory cut the gap between Tottenham and runaway leaders Chelsea to ten points, and manager Mauricio Pochettino only has eyes for catching the pacesetting Blues.
It looks a tall order for Spurs to catch Antonio Conte’s rampant, record-breaking side, who show no signs of letting up on their lead going into the festive period. Though Pochettino’s side can take heart from the fact that a year ago they were nine points adrift of then Premier League leaders Leicester by Christmas, yet they managed to cut the gap to two points by mid-February.
With that in mind, Pochettino will surely be relishing his side’s opportunity to seize points from the Blues when they face off at White Hart Lane on January 4th.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, when quizzed about whether or not he thought Chelsea were already out of sight, Pochettino replied:
“No. It’s true that we have 10 point gap with Chelsea. But in football anything can happen”.
“There are lot of games to play. Not only because last season was a similar gap with Leicester, eight or nine points in that period. I think our position is good. Now we are winning games, keeping the gap now a little bit closer to second position.
“It is not tomorrow, not in a few weeks, that the Premier League finishes. It is still a long way until the end of the season.”
One thing that will have impressed him about Sunday’s performance was the character his side showed to snatch victory in what was by the standards of any top-four hopeful, a lacklustre performance against a battling Burnley side who were desperate for a result to put more daylight between themselves and the bottom four. A victory however that nonetheless keeps Spurs’ unbeaten home record intact and takes them to within a point of fourth placed Arsenal.
Pochettino’s rage was there for all to see when Ashley Barnes fired the visitors ahead, before Alli and Rose turned the match on its head. There was one controversial incident that marred proceedings, when Moussa Sissoko escaped a high, late challenge on Stephen Ward with just a yellow card, a foul which Burnley manager Sean Dyche believed warranted a dismissal, before playing in Danny Rose for the winner just moments later.
In the face of the controversy, Pochettino adopted an approach particularly familiar with that of his Arsenal counterpart, Arsene Wenger.
“It was impossible for me and from my position to see whether it was one thing or another.” he said.
“But I sympathise with Sean Dyche for feeling it was a red card.”
A win of course is a win, but there are still obvious areas of improvement in the final third for Spurs, with a plethora of guilt-edged chances squandered against Burnley before they finally breached their resistance.
And it is something that hadn’t gone unnoticed in the Tottenham camp, after defender Toby Alderweireld had called upon his teammates to create more and give more in the final third ahead of the Burnley showdown, according to the Daily Mail. A point that still very much stands even in the face of Sunday’s triumph.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team have the joint-best defence in the Premier League but have scored fewer than Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace side who are nearer the wrong end of the table, and the Belgian, one of the stars in that impregnable defence, feels that Spurs must be ‘more mature’ in front of goal and has called on Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and others to create more chances and show even more of a ruthless streak in front of goal.
“We could create more,” Alderweireld said. “We need a bit more quality in the final third.
“Defensively everything is OK. We have the best defensive record in the league I think (conceded 11, shared with Chelsea), so that is something that is good.
“We need to be more mature up front. Like on Wednesday (against Hull), we scored three goals.”
Alderweireld has served under several big-name managers during his career, having had stints and Ajax and Atlético Madrid before joining Tottenham, names including Diego Simeone, compatriots Frank De Boer and Marco van Basten, as well as Ronald Koeman, whom he worked with during a loan spell at Southampton prior to joining Tottenham.
But when asked by the Mail about where he ranks Pochettino, the Belgian has his current boss up there amongst the best on the planet.
“He is up there. He is one of the best. I have been very lucky to get the managers in the world”, Alderweireld said.
“Simeone, De Boer, Van Basten, fantastic names to have worked with. But he’s up there and very football minded and knows exactly what he wants.
“He puts and gets across his ideas to the group and we know exactly what he wants. Now I think he is one of the best in the world.”
Pochettino is widely known as one of the Premier League’s strictest leading men when it comes to training sessions, where he attempts to implement the way he wants Tottenham to play.
“He has an idea of how he wants us to play football, sometimes with a good result and sometimes with a bad result”, said Alderweireld regarding Pochettino’s methods.
“He stands with his own philosophy how he want us to play. He doesn’t want to change anything. It’s the way we want to get success, with good football and pressure.
“That is good to have a manager who is very clear.”
The man himself has also had something to say to the media for Spurs fans to digest, having said at the club’s pre-match press conference on Sunday that he feels ‘too much’ has been expected of his Tottenham team this season, following last season’s third-place finish after being firmly in the title race.
Spurs were firmly in the hunt to catch eventual winners Leicester City, before crumbling during the final few weeks of the campaign and eventually finishing third behind bitter rivals Arsenal. Their 70 points and top-four finish however was still enough to fulfil their ambition of a place in the Champions League for only the second time in their history.
Spurs’ return to Europe’s elite was fleeting, and they have already made a swift return to the Europa League before the New Year after a disappointing period of one win in ten matches in all competitions throughout October and November.
However, Pochettino still feels, despite being lower in the league table than 12 months ago, remains defiant in his assertion that Spurs are where they should be.
“Now we see the table after 16 games we have four more points than last season,” he told his pre-match press conference before the Burnley clash. That still stands after the game, following their 2-1 victory.
“Maybe we feel disappointed for the Champions League and the expectations from the beginning of the season were too high.
“We have four points more and the gap to second in the table is four points and 10 with the top. Last season I think it was eight or nine points to Leicester on the top of the table”.
“I think we can see that we have improved a little bit but the feeling is difficult to put away because of the disappointment and frustration with the Champions League.
“I think that killed a little bit the positive things we’ve done from the beginning of the season,” Pochettino added.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Tricia H. Kuhn.