Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham Hotspur’s experience of flagging on the home straight 12 months ago may proveto be crucial in keeping this year’s reawakened Premier League title race going to the death.
Victory at Turf Moor with second‑half goals from Eric Dier and Son Heung‑min, plus Chelsea’s home defeat against Crystal Palace, cut the advantage of Antonio Conte’s team to seven points with nine games apiece remaining. At the corresponding juncture in 2015-16, Spurs were five off the pace. Yet when the clocks went forward they went backwards. Or at least that is how it seemed because of Leicester City’s unerring pursuit of the finishing tape.
Pochettino said: “Always I tell the players, ‘we must show we have learned from last season’, that we are clever, intelligent people. It is true, last season was a great experience for us. It was a tough experience in the end but it is a thing that, for us, we need to think about every time and now give our best, keep our position and fight. I think reducing three points to Chelsea was an important thing for us.
“We will see if we have learned. It’s true that the Premier League is more competitive this season. But we are there. There is a lot of work to do but we are fighting.”
Last year while Spurs won four and drew three of their final nine games, Leicester went unbeaten, winning six, and secured the title with two weekends to spare when Tottenham failed to beat Chelsea on 2 May. Now Spurs are again chasing different boys in blue, at the end of a season that their affable Argentinian head coach believes has been exemplary.
“It is an exciting moment and we are conscious about the situation. We are playing for big things; we are in the FA Cup semi-final and second on the table, and I think a better position is impossible,” Pochettino said after winning a fourth successive league game, and the second in a row without the injured striker Harry Kane.
“[Winning without Harry] is a good thing, it is important because football is a qualitative matter. The squad is very important; we talk about rotation and giving different players the opportunity to play because in 10 months of the competition, when you’re also involved in different competitions like the Europa League or Champions League, you need all your players to compete.”
Kane, who damaged ankle ligaments in the FA Cup win against Millwall three weeks ago, should be back before the semi‑final against Chelsea on 22 April. The title picture could be even more favourable by then, with Chelsea facing both Manchester clubs in the interim.
However, Hugo Lloris attempted to douse the post-match euphoria of the away end at Turf Moor with his assessment of the situation. The Tottenham captain said: “Yes, it’s a good feeling because it means even if Chelsea are a big team with big players it’s not done. But I want to repeat that the most important thing is to stay focused on ourselves and we will see where we are at the end.
“Honestly, it doesn’t change my mind or the minds of my team-mates. We need to carry on because it’s very tight in the league behind us. I prefer to look backwards and to look at what is happening behind us because this is the final race. It’s a key moment of the season.”
The midfielders Harry Winks and Victor Wanyama, meanwhile, are set to undergo scans on ankle and back injuries respectively on Monday as inflicting Burnley’s fourth home league defeat of the season came at a cost.