Monday 28 May 2018

Mauricio Pochettino seeks funds for Spurs to climb higher after Cup defeat

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino gestures. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino gestures. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Matt Law

The fact he said it twice, both times unprompted, suggested Mauricio Pochettino wanted to convey a message after watching Tottenham Hotspur suffer their eighth successive FA Cup semi-final defeat.

Pochettino responded to questions regarding Tottenham’s failure to get over the line in semi-finals and finals by saying the club needs time “with me or another manager”. He later admitted he could change his policy in next season’s FA Cup and play his kids, even though it could result in early elimination.

Tottenham want Pochettino to sign a new £8.5 million contract at the end of the season, but it seems the Argentine wants something other than just a pay rise in return. Knowing that Chelsea would love him to be their next manager, and that he would be near the top of Real Madrid’s list if the Spanish club make change, Pochettino will want to be sure that he is given the tools to keep Spurs moving forwards.

Even without a trophy there has been progress once again this season, as Tottenham reached the last 16 of the Champions League and should qualify for Europe’s elite competition for a third successive season. But defeats to Manchester City, in the Premier League, and United in the FA Cup, either side of a draw at Brighton, have highlighted that Pochettino needs more depth and quality in his squad.

Chairman Daniel Levy was at Wembley to see that three of Tottenham’s major signings from the past four transfer windows, Lucas Moura, Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko, all started as substitutes. Fernando Llorente was not even on the bench. That left 21-year-old Davinson Sanchez as the only signing of recent times deemed good enough to start the semi-final against Manchester United. The Colombian was beaten in the air by Romelu Lukaku in the build-up to Ander Herrera’s winner.

United’s January signing Alexis Sanchez, who has struggled to justify his eye-watering wages, scored his side’s first and had a hand in Herrera’s goal. Marcus Rashford was introduced as a late substitute, while Anthony Martial and Juan Mata could not get off the bench – further highlighting the gulf in resources between the two clubs.

“The most important thing is we competed against a team that spends a lot of money and have unbelievable players,” said Pochettino. “With a different philosophy, we were able to compete with this team.”

But Tottenham’s squad is simply not strong enough to compete on all fronts and the quality of the recruitment has not matched the progress made on the pitch. Wilfried Zaha is near the top of this summer’s wishlist and Levy will be under pressure to deliver him. Like Pochettino, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris will all be offered new deals, but, like their manager, the players will want to know Spurs are able to push forwards.

Dele had given Tottenham an early lead from an Eriksen cross, but, after Eric Dier hit the post in first-half stoppage time, Pochettino’s team never got close to scoring again. Kane has understandably looked off the pace since being rushed back from his ankle injury, but Llorente has not proven to be an able deputy so Spurs cannot afford to bring the England striker back slowly.

“It’s not easy after injury,” said Pochettino. “Harry needs time to recover his best. He is ok. But, of course, the performance sometimes cannot be what we expect. Harry Kane, the whole season, cannot score every single game.”

Kane said: “I feel good. I feel sharp. It's been a tough week for the team. The City game, frustrating against Brighton and obviously frustrating today.

“For me personally, can I do better? Probably, yeah. Can the team do better? Yeah. So it's a collective effort. We'll all be disappointed today, as will I. But all we can do is try to secure the Champions League place.

“There’s obviously a reason why we’re falling short in the semi-finals, or in the big games. So we have to do better. I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what it is. But it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating personally, it's frustrating for the team. We just have to find our way round it.”

On his fitness, Kane added: “No problems. I feel good, feel sharp. We’ve still got four games to go and I’m looking forward to those four games and a big summer ahead.”

Having claimed before the semi-final that winning the FA Cup “would not change the lives” of his Tottenham players, Pochettino has suggested he might approach the competition differently next season.

Asked if it would make his life easier to field a young side in the the competition and risk getting knocked out earlier, Pochettino replied: “I am thinking with Tottenham to play with kids the next time, yes.  I agree with you. Maybe yes, next we will provide the possibility to play with kids and I’m sure it will be fantastic for experience and everything. Then we stop to arrive in this situation.”

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