Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 February 2018

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino makes Payet pledge

Dimitri Payet (right) and West Ham take on Tottenham on Saturday.
Dimitri Payet (right) and West Ham take on Tottenham on Saturday.

Mauricio Pochettino has instructed Tottenham to pay special attention to Dimitri Payet on Saturday but says there is no plan to man-mark the West Ham playmaker.

Payet is yet to hit the heady heights of his debut season in the Premier League but has still scored or assisted five of the Hammers' 11 goals this term.

He remains the greatest threat to Spurs registering their first win in eight matches this weekend. But asked if Pochettino plans to try and mark the Frenchman out of the game, he said: "No, because we never play like this.

"We have played against top players during (my) two and a half years at Tottenham and you can see we never focus on that type of player, like (Eden) Hazard or David Silva who can change a game."

Pochettino continued: "It never was my intention when I started as a manager, facing Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, to try to do something special or be focused on trying to stop this type of player.

"The most important thing is to try to recover the ball quickly, to have the ball more than them, to try to focus on how we need to damage our opponent.

"It's true that when you are close, you have in front of you a type of player like Payet in this case, it's true that the players who are in his zone need to be aggressive, tight, try to anticipate, and not give him space to play.

"It's true that we're talking about that. But it's not a special mark on him."

Spurs host their London rivals on the back of four consecutive draws in the league but there were encouraging signs before the international break, when they took a point away from in-form Arsenal.

Pochettino made the bold move of deploying three central defenders at the Emirates Stadium, allowing Danny Rose and Kyle Walker to attack more from wide positions, while Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Kevin Wimmer made up the defensive trio.

"I think it is to try to find more solutions, to surprise the opponent," Pochettino said.

"Last season you can see that we played 3-4-3 at Watford. If you compare the first season to the second season, we started to play more with Eric Dier as a midfielder, but more of a centre-back than a midfielder.

"You see how we play in possession, we play 3-4-3, or 3-3-1-3. You know that we play a lot in possession, with Dier dropped (back).

"If you take one video, and analyse a little bit, you realise that we play like with three centre-backs."

Toby Alderweireld remains out with a leg injury while Dele Alli is close to recovering from a knee problem but may not be risked, with crunch trips to Monaco in the Champions League and Chelsea coming up next week.

Harry Kane is expected to start against West Ham but three matches in a week may prove too much for the striker, who is still regaining fitness after seven weeks out with an ankle injury.

"We need to start at the first game and then we will see what condition he is in," Pochettino said.

"We cannot say whether he can cope with three games of 90 minutes because we do not know.

"The first step is West Ham and then we will see. It is true that we have three very important games but we need to be focused on West Ham."

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