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Pochettino pledges to 'change mentality' to halt spiral

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Tottenham Hotspur's manager Mauricio Pochettino (2nd R) looks on as his side take on Stoke at White Hart Lane. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Tottenham Hotspur's manager Mauricio Pochettino (2nd R) looks on as his side take on Stoke at White Hart Lane. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

REUTERS

Stoke City's Mame Biram Diouf, (left) is tackled by Tottenham Hotspur's Ryan Mason. Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire

Stoke City's Mame Biram Diouf, (left) is tackled by Tottenham Hotspur's Ryan Mason. Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire

PA

Stoke City's Bojan Krkic (R) celebrates his goal against Tottenham Hotspur with Mame Diouf (L) and Victor Moses. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Stoke City's Bojan Krkic (R) celebrates his goal against Tottenham Hotspur with Mame Diouf (L) and Victor Moses. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

REUTERS

Tottenham Hotspur's Nacer Chadli is challenged by Stoke City's (L-R) Steve Sidwell, Phil Bardsley and Ryan Shawcross. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Tottenham Hotspur's Nacer Chadli is challenged by Stoke City's (L-R) Steve Sidwell, Phil Bardsley and Ryan Shawcross. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

REUTERS

Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Naughton (L) is sent off by referee Mike Jones. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Naughton (L) is sent off by referee Mike Jones. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

REUTERS

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Tottenham Hotspur's manager Mauricio Pochettino (2nd R) looks on as his side take on Stoke at White Hart Lane. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

JUST like the Titanic, there is a theory that Mauricio Pochettino should never have left Southampton.

After a fourth Premier League loss in five home games, there is also a growing sense that the confident award of a five-year contract to a manager who had spent only 16 months in England after losing his job at Espanyol was a misguided gamble.

Mistakes are certainly being made - Pochettino's decision to drop Jan Vertonghen backfired yesterday and he admitted that the mentality of the squad needs changing - yet the instinct to simply blame the manager should still be resisted.

Yes, little has happened this season to disprove the suspicion that Pochettino inherited a set of circumstances at Southampton that were far better than previously appreciated, but the opposite was also actually true at Tottenham.

They are a club where expectation and squad quality remain mismatched. Chairman Daniel Levy has made it clear that Champions League football is the aim but, despite going admirably close to meeting that target, the last three managers have all been sacked.

This is all despite Spurs having only the sixth biggest budget in the Premier League and still no definite date for when Levy will deliver the stadium that might provide the necessary resource for his ambitions.

"It's clear we need to improve a lot," Pochettino said. "Always in football you need time for different methods and philosophy, but we need to improve quick. In football you never have a long time. We need to find a solution very quick."

The solution, says Pochettino, will be found in changing the mindset of the players so that they are more assured on the ball. He also showed yesterday that he is willing to drop high-profile signings, with Harry Kane starting and Roberto Soldado, Emmanuel Adebayor, Erik Lamela and Moussa Dembele all on the bench. The Spurs substitutes collectively cost almost double the starting team.

"We started to play uncomfortable in possession and to take rash decisions," said Pochettino. "This is my idea in the next few weeks - to find a solution and change our mentality. The players know my feelings: very disappointed and frustrated and not happy because our performance was not good enough."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes admitted he had tried to use the tension at Tottenham to his advantage and his players executed the counter-attacking game plan to perfection.

Bojan Krkic was deep inside Tottenham's half when Andros Townsend lost possession but ran directly at the defence and, with both Younes Kaboul and Federico Fazio backing off, shot into the corner of Hugo Lloris's goal.

The game was six minutes old, but the frustrations of the Tottenham supporters were already boiling to the surface, and compounded by Stoke instantly looking for ways to slow things down.

Stoke were still the more threatening team and went two up. Ryan Shawcross won a header on the halfway line to release Mame Diouf, whose pace was sufficient to go past Danny Rose and deliver a cross for Jonathan Walters to finish.

Boos rang out around White Hart Lane as Pochettino made for the dressing-room at half-time, but he was at least decisive in making two immediate tactical changes, with Townsend and Christian Eriksen replaced by Lamela and Dembele.

Spurs remained ragged and nervy in possession but, they inched their way back into the game. Lamela's free-kick had just provoked a brilliant save from Asmir Begovic when the ball fell to Rose. He delivered a high cross which landed perfectly for Nacer Chadli, who smashed home a volley.

Hope of repeating last week's dramatic late comeback against Aston Villa was effectively ended when, from another counter-attack, Kyle Naughton pulled back Victor Moses as the on-loan Chelsea striker sprinted clear on goal.

The referee showed a straight red and Stoke saw out a victory that lifts them above Spurs and into the top half of the table. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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