Tottenham Hotspur are not contenders for this season’s Premier League title despite moving to 12 games unbeaten with a 4-1 hammering of West Ham United on Sunday, says Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino — not yet, at least.
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Following Spurs’ latest victory — their sixth in nine league games — Pochettino was inevitably asked whether or not he believed his side were title contenders — a completely fair question given the wide open nature of the PL this season. Pochettino was quick the quell such talk, though he did admit they are certainly headed in the right direction.
Pochettino, on Spurs’ title ambitions — quotes from the Independent:
“You can feel from the touchline how the players believe in the way that we play, that it is the best thing for us. We are very proud of the players, pleased with a lot of positive things we saw today.”
Pochettino would not discuss the title, saying it is “too early,” and that his side still need to improve. “For us to try to win the title, we need more, step by step. In football we cannot stop, ever. There is always something to improve in football, to try to play much better in the next game. We need to keep working hard and keep our feet on the ground.”
“Tonight we are very proud. Today you saw how the players believe in the way that we play. We share the same philosophy, the squad is convinced that the way that we play is the best. This is why we feel very proud of them.”
Spurs aren’t going to win the league this year (probably) — then again, we’d have said no way in the world Leicester City would be top of the league after 13 weeks, yet here we are, so who knows at this point? — but the dramatic improvement from his first to second seasons in charge is eerily similar to that of another Pochettino-coached side from year one to year two: his Southampton team, which followed up a 14th-place finish in his first (partial) season in charge with an 8th-place finish in 2013-14.
Much of the criticism surrounding Spurs last season was, “they’re a one man team, they would be nothing without Harry Kane,” which was perhaps true, last season. Fast forward to 2015-16, and Kane didn’t score his first league goal until Sept. 26, Spurs’ seventh game, yet they lost just once during his goalless drought. Since getting off the mark, Kane has scored seven goals in Spurs’ last six league games (four-game scoring streak).
At various points this season, cases could have been made for every one of Kane, Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld as Spurs’ most influential player, and most recently, the entire midfield trio Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli. A well-rounded team, completely bought into the manager’s message, indeed.