Wednesday 13 December 2017

Pochettino pledges end to Tottenham's boom-and-bust era

Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and Tottenham's Harry Kane after the game. Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and Tottenham's Harry Kane after the game. Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring. Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble

Chris Bascombe

Rather than being deflated having dropped two points in pursuit of Leicester City, Mauricio Pochettino left Anfield with a message of reassurance and defiance.

The Tottenham manager's enduring confidence in the here and now of a title challenge is matched by his ebullience when considering the long-term prospects for his impressive, evolving team.

Pochettino did not sound like a manager worried by the envious glances from Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge as he vowed to not only keep his squad intact but enhance it, promising an end to the boom-and-bust years where Champions League qualification preceded an exodus of talent.

Spurs have suffered plenty when they have broken into the top four previously.

They have no cause to be victims of the European superpowers this summer, Pochettino adamant there will no more picturesque venue than White Hart Lane for the foreseeable future.

"It is true this is not just about this season," said Pochettino. "When you compare Tottenham with big sides people can see that this approach is for the long term.

"We have the youngest squad in the Premier League yet we're here fighting for the title. The project is fantastic because we are ahead of the programme and we are only going to get better.

"For a lot of players this is their first season in the Premier League and it is sure that next season they will have more experience and in football you always need time to develop to your full quality.

"Our idea is to keep the main group for the next few years and to try to build and add players that can help us. It is impossible to set limits. It is also important to improve our squad."

Victory eluded them on Merseyside, but their classy and sturdy response to Philippe Coutinho's goal was championship material.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is adamant the 17-point difference does not reflect the quality in both squads but in several key areas there was a discernible difference. The gulf is in the trustworthiness of their spine. Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane are the bedrocks of Pochettino's master plan.

A comparable goalkeeper, centre-half, central midfielder and striker are Klopp's priorities, although his immediate frustration was directed at the fitness issues undermining efforts to instantly transform Liverpool's league position.

"Usually it's not my job to say this, but we had a lot more injury problems than Tottenham," he said.

"With the same injury problems, who would have played for Tottenham? Kane, Alli, Eriksen out or whoever - plus Vertonghen and Alderweireld? Oops. Completely different.

"Then this development is not possible with 25 games in a row. These are the problems we've had to cope with.

"If you read numbers from the last few weeks and months, what's really developed, then I could be more disappointed about the position in the table and the points we have, but I'm not.


"We are in a good way. We play good football, but we don't get the result we deserve often enough. That makes me not too happy. But we can build on these moments and then we will see it becomes better and better.

"But you can't start dreaming and think, 'For them it's possible, maybe for us it's possible'. I know what will happen next season. Maybe you accept some things this season but next season it will be, 'OK, you've had enough time now come on, show us'."

If Spurs were unable to secure the groundshifting result in the title race, at least they ensured the debate about who is England's finest striker is redundant.

Dejan Lovren was impeccable for 89 minutes and 55 seconds, but with a single swivel and instant shot Kane demonstrated why he - and not the toiling Daniel Sturridge - must be Roy Hodgson's choice in France.

Klopp was impressed enough to seek out the Spurs striker at full-time (left) to acknowledge his quality.

Nothing separated these teams over 180 minutes this season. Klopp's symbolic recognition of Kane underlined why the league table tells a different story.

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