Friday 30 September 2016

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham show title-race hangover is behind them at Stoke

Published 10/09/2016 | 18:51

Mauricio Pochettino, right, saw Tottenham thrash Stoke again
Mauricio Pochettino, right, saw Tottenham thrash Stoke again

Mauricio Pochettino believes his Tottenham players have proved last year's disappointment at missing out on the Premier League title is already out of their system after they thrashed Stoke 4-0.

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Five months ago, at this ground, Spurs won by the same scoreline to cut the gap on leaders Leicester to five points, though they would not win again in their remaining four fixtures as the Foxes sealed an unlikely championship victory.

Having taken five points from their opening three fixtures this term, Pochettino's side rediscovered the scintillating form they showed on that April night as Heung-Min Son scored twice and Dele Alli and Harry Kane both opened their season's accounts.

It was a performance that echoed those which brought Spurs into the title picture last year and their Argentinian boss thought it showed there was no hangover at White Hart Lane.

"I think that after four games unbeaten you can see that the players are thinking about the new season, the new challenge," Pochettino said.

"We forget the past. We worked hard to forget last season and focus on the present. After four games we are unbeaten and you can see that the team has recovered.

"We need to improve now. Pre-season was tough. Now we need to work hard, improve and stay together."

Kane's goal, the fourth of the afternoon, was his first in 10 for his club and country, dating back to England's pre-Euro 2016 friendly win over Turkey in May, and also his 50th in the top flight in just 87 appearances.

"It was very important for him to recover the feeling of scoring," Pochettino added.

"Always the strikers are worried when they don't score but now he feels happy, we feel happy. I think that was a perfect victory for us."

The home side's players were taunted with chants of 'Stoke City, it's happening again' as they unravelled in the second half despite starting brightly with new signings Wilfried Bony and Bruno Martins Indi handed debuts.

Potters boss Mark Hughes had an elevated viewpoint for the drubbing that unfolded having been sent to the stands with 10 minutes of the first half to go following an incident which saw Marko Arnautovic booked for diving.

The Welshman, who has bemoaned refereeing decisions in each of Stoke's previous two defeats, revealed it was for stepping out of his technical area to protest what he thought was an initial foul on Jonathan Walters, rather than the verbal abuse which he directed at fourth official Jon Moss after referee Anthony Taylor was called over.

"I saw on TV them maybe saying I came out of my technical box, came back in and swore, which I didn't," Hughes explained.

"I was already sent off at that point before I even engaged with Jon Moss.

"I came out of my technical area, I was upset and felt the assistant referee hadn't flagged for a clear foul and the referee then thought it was the right decision to book Marko when he was just trying to take evasive action.

"There were two decisions I thought should have gone our way so I reacted in a forceful manner. When you come out of your technical arena, it's not allowed, sometimes you forget that. Mr Moss, bless him, decided that warranted a sending off, which, by the letter of the law it did, so I have to hold my hands up.

"In my view it was (a foul on Walters) and Marko, I think, had to hurdle the leg just take evasive action. It wasn't as if he was diving, which was the referee's interpretation.

"That was the disappointment, it wasn't easy to get messages down to the team but that's not the reason why we got beat."

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