Wednesday 16 October 2019

I could be at Spurs for five more years, says Pochettino amid talk of split in camp

Mauricio Pochettino wanted to overhaul his Tottenham squad during the summer. Photo: PA
Mauricio Pochettino wanted to overhaul his Tottenham squad during the summer. Photo: PA

Matt Law

Mauricio Pochettino has conceded that he cannot defend himself from the criticism that has followed Tottenham Hotspur's 7-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich amid fears that splits within the club and among supporters could cause further chaos.

Tottenham's stuttering start to the season plunged to a new low in the Champions League this week, with Pochettino having to lift his players quickly for today's Premier League trip to Brighton.

The manager insisted yesterday that his squad were all pulling in the same direction, but opinions on where the blame lies for their inconsistent form are understood to be divided. Substitute Erik Lamela appeared to exchange words with Serge Aurier, who is suspended for the Brighton game, following one of Bayern's late goals, and Christian Eriksen felt it necessary this week to respond to wild internet rumours regarding his girlfriend and team-mate Jan Vertonghen.

There have even been claims on social media that some fans will travel to the Amex Stadium with a banner displaying "Poch Out". That could cause problems within Tottenham's fan base, as many supporters are still backing Pochettino and have threatened to confront anybody caught calling for his head.

The Argentine's job is not currently in danger, but his working relationship with chairman Daniel Levy came under strain this summer over Pochettino's desire to overhaul his squad. The pair have since held clear-the-air talks, but there remain differences over how the club should progress. Some of Levy's allies outside Tottenham believe he should hire a director of football, but Pochettino is unlikely to back the idea. He also refused to confirm whether he had given his blessing for a behind-the-scenes documentary the club have reportedly discussed with Amazon.

Asked about the reaction to the Bayern thrashing, Pochettino said: "We know very well that type of defeat always brings consequences and that is a lot of opinions and criticism. Monday I was the best and after Tuesday I am the worst. That's the reality when you lose and you cannot defend yourself."

Theories are growing that this could be Pochettino's last season at Tottenham, although he attempted to dampen those rumours by saying: "In five-and-a-half years, in every single press conference, we're talking about my future. I hope that we're still talking, it means I'm going to spend five more years here at least."

Pochettino can draw from his experience as a player as he attempts to make sure Tottenham bounce back, although he admitted he could not copy the response of his former Newell's Old Boys boss Marcelo Bielsa. Legend has it that Bielsa reacted to a 6-0 Copa Libertadores defeat at home to San Lorenzo, in which Pochettino played, by threatening with a grenade an unhappy gang of fans who turned up at his house.

Pochettino chose his words carefully when asked whether or not he could learn from how Bielsa dealt with the situation, even though the alleged grenade incident was not mentioned. "That was 27 years ago," said Pochettino. "Now it is a different era, a different period of people. But of course, it was an experience."

Newell's recovered from their thrashing to reach the Copa Libertadores final and win the league, and Pochettino added: "We played the first game of the season and we won. The second game was the Copa Libertadores against San Lorenzo - 6-0 at home. It was really, really, painful. Similar to Bayern.

"But that season we finished by winning the Premier League in Argentina and even reached the final of the Copa Libertadores, only losing to Sao Paulo on penalties. In six months, we changed completely the perception. Of course, that gives me hope. Sometimes this type of situation makes you stronger and, of course, better. We [Tottenham] need to be clever and learn from this type of situation."

Pochettino's players returned to training less than 24 hours after the Bayern game, with midfielder Moussa Sissoko set to fill in at right-back against Brighton.

"We all think the same," said Pochettino. "We were talking before training, during training, after training and at lunchtime, and we all feel the same. It's so painful. You cannot be happy with that [Bayern] defeat. They want another opportunity to play and rebuild the confidence we need.

"We know that for 30 minutes in the first half was our best period in the season. We are at 4-2 after 83 minutes and in three minutes you concede three goals more. It's so painful. The most important thing is to stay together, and to find a way to perform." © Daily Telegraph, London

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