Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham Hotspur remain very much in the fight for the title and praised his team’s new‑found mental resilience after an eighth successive Premier League win trimmed Chelsea’s lead at the top back to four points.
Spurs will go into the north London derby on Sunday conscious that victory against the sixth-placed Arsenal would ensure they finish above their bitter rivals for the first time in 22 years, but with the manager urging his players to “think about bigger things”.
Narrow victory at Crystal Palace, courtesy of Christian Eriksen’s solitary goal 12 minutes from time, proved his side’s strength of character following an FA Cup semi-final defeat and Chelsea’s win the night before, and maintained the momentum they have built up since late February.
“We are showing that we learned a lot from last season as a team,” said Pochettino, whose side had fallen away over the last few fixtures to finish third last term. “That is so important because improving on last season was a big challenge, a massive challenge. One area that was key for us to improve was in our mental attitude, and the team are now showing we are ready. We are ready this season to fight and, next season, we’ll be even better. We are in a very good way to develop our philosophy.
“Last season was good, if you remember, but it looks like we are better, more mature. We didn’t concede a chance in the second half. Yes, the team are showing great maturity and you can see that you can trust [them]. It’s not about sending a message to Chelsea. It’s more about us building confidence, building faith that we can win, generating that winning mentality. That’s the only way. Now we have five games ahead, a very exciting period, and an exciting weekend ahead.”
Chelsea travel to Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon before Spurs host Arsenal in potentially the last derby at White Hart Lane, a fixture which will go some way towards determining both teams’ remaining ambitions this term. “The possibility of finishing above Arsenal is not a motivation or a distraction,” Pochettino said. “We are just focusing on trying to beat Arsenal. What happens at the end of the season, we’ll see. We’ll have time to speak then, but the focus is on winning the next game.
“We know what Arsenal means, this game, for our fans. But we are not thinking about being above Arsenal. Our challenge now is to try and reduce the gap to Chelsea again and think about bigger things than only to be above Arsenal. To win big trophies and achieve big things, your mentality must be bigger than that. You must think about bigger dreams. Big dreams. It’s important to have them.”