Belfast Telegraph

Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham have learned lessons from last year's title race

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has warned Chelsea his players will not waver in the Premier League title race as they have learned from their mistakes of last season.

Chelsea's players taunted Spurs last year by making clear their support for Leicester and then held them to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge to confirm the Foxes as champions.

Tottenham struggled to cope with the wave of enthusiasm behind Claudio Ranieri's 5,000/1-shots and their frustration boiled over, not only against Chelsea, but in a dismal end to the season that included defeats to Southampton and already relegated Newcastle.

Now, Pochettino's men are playing catch-up again but are chasing Chelsea, whose lead at the top was cut to seven points following Saturday's surprise loss at home to Crystal Palace.

Spurs will hope to make further inroads on Wednesday when they travel to Swansea while the Blues host Manchester City, and Pochettino insists his players are better equipped due to the disappointment of the 2015/16 campaign.

"It's true last season we expended a lot of energy thinking about Leicester, the media, the challenge for the title," Pochettino said.

"Many saw that we spent a lot of time thinking about what Arsenal or Chelsea were talking about in the media. Now the team is focused.

"We can win or we can lose, but we spend time only to be ready and try to give our best in every game. This is completely different today."

Pochettino continued: "In that moment, Leicester was the big surprise for everyone and it was not only in England, in Europe... the world was excited about Leicester. It was... 'Wow! It's Leicester, they can win the Premier League'.

"It was an exciting moment for the Premier League. Only our supporters and us were sad. The rest of the teams the rest of England were very happy that Leicester were there.

"Now it's Chelsea, it's Tottenham, it's Manchester City, it's Liverpool. It's a normal thing that can happen. It was very strange last season. We suffer a lot because we were involved."

To demonstrate the point, Pochettino said neither he nor his players were aware of Chelsea's struggles against Palace until they had beaten Burnley 2-0 on Saturday and were back in the changing room.

Spurs were drawing 0-0 at half-time at Turf Moor , when the Blues were already trailing 2-1, but there was no suggestion of using that for extra motivation.

"We were playing at the same time and at half-time we didn't know the result," Pochettino said.

"When we finished the game we checked our phone and said, 'Woah!' - but at half-time we were focused on us. We didn't know about the score. That is a good signal. It's very good."

Tottenham's hopes of overhauling Chelsea could hinge on the next fortnight given they host Watford and Bournemouth after Swansea, while Antonio Conte's side follow City with tricky trips to the Cherries and Manchester United.

There is also the potential psychological bonus that Spurs play both Watford and Bournemouth before Chelsea's respective fixtures those weekends, whereas Pochettino's side frequently took to the field after Leicester during the run-in last term.

"It's more fair this season than last season, that is true," the Argentinian said.

"We feel it is more fair because we are playing at the same time, maybe one day we play before, then they play before. I think it's more natural."


From Belfast Telegraph