Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino retains title hope but Chelsea stay four points clear

David Hytner at White Hart Lane and Andy Hunter at Goodison Park
The Guardian
Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino retains title hope but Chelsea stay four points clear
Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino retains title hope but Chelsea stay four points clear

Mauricio Pochettino spoke of his pride and delight at Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 home win against Arsenal in the north London derby and insisted that they remained in the Premier League title race, despite the “disappointment” of seeing the leaders Chelsea power on at Everton earlier in the day.

Chelsea’s trip to Goodison Park had looked like the toughest assignment of their run-in but they surged to a 3-0 victory – on the back of second-half goals from Pedro, Gary Cahill and Willian – and it had the manager, Antonio Conte, celebrating wildly on the pitch at full-time.

Tottenham were asked to respond and they did so in the last north London derby at the “old” White Hart Lane. They seemed to want the result more than Arsenal and they got it thanks to goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane.

They sit four points behind Chelsea with four games to go and visit West Ham United on Friday night, before Chelsea entertain Middlesbrough on Monday week.

Pochettino knows that his team could cut the gap to a single point and he agreed that they might be able to ramp up the pressure on Chelsea ahead of their fixture with Middlesbrough. “Could be, could be,” Pochettino said. “It will be a tough game but, if we are able to win, we will see what happens.

“The players just need to be proud of the performance against Arsenal. Of course, I am disappointed because it was a great opportunity to reduce the gap. It is four points but all is possible in football. I am so proud and happy with the team’s performance and our support. We are in the race for the title and now we have to be focused on the West Ham game.”

Conte saw his Chelsea team end Everton’s run of eight consecutive home wins and it made it the perfect week for him – when it mattered the most. Chelsea had beaten Tottenham in the FA Cup semi‑final last Saturday and then Southampton in the league on Tuesday.

“This was a crucial week for us and we finished it very well,” Conte said. “We all know there is a part of the season that is more important and it is now. To win away against Everton is not easy and it was a great result but we have to continue in this way – go step by step. If we don’t win against Middlesbrough, then we lose this great win.

“We showed great enthusiasm and great patience. We are having a great season but, to become a fantastic season, we must win [the title]. What did I say to my players afterwards? The message was not with words but great hugs.”

Tottenham’s victory ensured that they will finish above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years, although Pochettino was unconcerned by the achievement. He has broader targets – chiefly, the desire to chase down Chelsea.

Arsène Wenger could lament bad defending on the goals his team conceded and an overall timidity.

“We played a little bit with a restricted attitude and I felt we lacked a little bit of freedom to play, and desire to hurt them more than we did,” the Arsenal manager said. “We had clearcut chances in the first half and we didn’t take them well – not with enough conviction and not with enough determination.

“On the first goal, it looked like we were not out-numbered. We had six against two or three. It was soft defending. Then, we conceded straight away a soft penalty and the 2-0 was a shock.”

Tottenham are 17 points ahead of their neighbours and Wenger was asked whether it was a fair reflection of the gap between the clubs.

“Look, the points are the points,” he replied. “They do not come from heaven. You earn them on the pitch. It will be very difficult now for us to finish in the top four but we have to fight.”

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