Tottenham: Spurs title contenders says midfielder; Pochettino reveals key to philosophy; youngster praised
Despite the fact that Spurs are better off at this stage in terms of points than they were 12 months ago, Mauricio Pochettino’s team actually find themselves lower in the Premier League table, one point outside their minimum target of the top four and ten points behind leaders Chelsea.
They have however won four of their last five in all competitions, losing just once at Old Trafford, a loss which was only their second defeat of the campaign overall. A key part of that form has been the consistency of Tottenham’s Danish international midfielder Christian Eriksen, who certainly hasn’t given up on the top four or even the Premier League title this term, telling Sky Sports HQ that he believes Spurs are “100 per cent” title contenders, and that their style of football is continuing to improve, even on last year.
Tottenham are that elusive one point outside the Premier League top four following a run of three wins in their last four matches, but Eriksen believes Spurs are more than a match for pace-setters Chelsea, despite the ten point deficit and their defeat at Stamford Bridge in November.
“If you watch the first 44-and-a-half minutes of the game at Chelsea, I think we did very, very well. We showed we can compete with them.
“It’s not like you can say ‘Oh they are much better’. Yes, they are doing really well and have not lost for 11 games and are on a really good run.
“But for us it is just about keeping up with everyone else and being as close as possible to the top. Of course I really want us to do better than last season, when we did really well. Hopefully we will finish even higher and we want to be in a position to do that so that is the main target.”
The 24-year-old Dane has emerged as one of Tottenham’s key players since his arrival from Ajax in the summer of 2013 for £11.5million- a bargain in hindsight- and he claims that he is happy with his form and progress made under Mauricio Pochettino, and has currently netted five goals in his previous five appearances in the league.
“It’s funny how football goes,” Eriksen added. “The season started and I did well and after a few games people turned and said ‘Oh it’s bad’ and now people say ‘It’s the best season ever’.
“When the team is playing well then I am playing well. I am feeling very confident in the stuff we are doing and it’s always good to help the team with some goals.
“The style we have and the manner we are playing in has become better so I think we are on the right path definitely.”
The fabled straight and narrow path for Spurs in the last two to three years has very much been directed towards adapting to and playing to the strengths of the philosophy manager Mauricio Pochettino has attempted to instil at White Hart Lane. In the last two years, more than in the past, the Argentine has spoken on the way he preaches that football should be played, and today has told the media that “bravery” above other things is key to that philosophy which he has introduced at White Hart Lane.
Pochettino took charge at Spurs in the summer of 2014 and has led the North London club to fifth and third place Premier League finishes, the latter coming despite Spurs finding themselves in the heat of the title race.
The former Espanyol and Southampton boss’ high-pressing style of play has been critical to Tottenham’s rise from mere top four contenders to title hopefuls, with the vast majority of the club’s players, both young and senior, thriving under Pochettino’s robust training regime.
“It’s too difficult to describe your philosophy. But I think you can see how Tottenham play,” he told Sky Sports, as quoted in the London Evening Standard.
“The most important thing is to be brave, to be protagonists with high intensity. And then it’s how to develop that and how we work to achieve that.”
The pressure many managers now have in English football to produce immediate results has limited coaches’ ability to commit to a long term project of changing a club’s style of play. Pochettino however is an exceptional case, and having signed a new contract at White Hart Lane back in May, the Argentine is determined to remain at the North London club in the long term as he attempts to build a dynasty at the club and mould them into consistent title challengers.
“Yes. I think I am very happy – we are very happy. Me, my staff and my family. We have found a very good place to enjoy and work hard.
“It’s a big club with big supporters and it’s a fantastic club to achieve big things,” Pochettino added.
A key part of Pochettino’s philosophy is providing younger players on the books of the club with opportunities to feature in and around the first-team, and one in particular has delighted teammate Mousa Dembele; academy graduate Harry Winks.
Winks worked his way through the ranks of the club’s Hotspur Way academy before breaking into the first-team reckoning this campaign, and Dembele has spoken about his delight at the fact that the youngster has been given his chance and seems to be taking it.
The 20-year-old has been on the fringes of the first-team squad throughout Mauricio Pochettino’s reign, and finally made his full Premier League debut in November’s victory over West Ham, putting the gloss on a fine performance with a goal. He has since gone on to feature regularly, his reward for grasping at his chance with both hands in his London Derby debut.
Belgian midfielder Dembele started in Sunday’s victory over Burnley alongside Winks in midfield and is hopeful the England Under-21 international can continue his remarkable progress at the club.
“I think he did very well again in the Burnley match,” Dembele told the club’s official website, as quoted by the London Evening Standard.
“Last year, even though he didn’t play too much, we saw that he had a lot of potential and I’m glad for him that he’s been getting some opportunities and his ability is coming out on the pitch now.
“He’s making progress as a young player but he’s a good guy as well so everybody appreciates him and wants him to succeed.”
This season, Pochettino has been looking to improve the adaptability and versatility of his side, increasing their tactical options by experimenting with a variety of formations in matches this season, which renders competition fierce for Winks’ preferred position in midfield.
Dembele, Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier are all vying for a starting role, but Winks could be handed another opportunity over a busy festive period, with Pochettino constantly chopping and changing his side this season.
Spurs’ hectic schedule continues with a clash against Southampton on December 28th, before travelling to Watford on New Year’s Day as they look to break into the top four and make up crucial ground on pacesetters Chelsea.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Sam Meers.