Mauricio was there as part of the official media launch of our new stadium premium packages and virtual reality suite, which provides a futuristic look at what our new home will look like, inside and out.
Of course, football matters were still on the agenda – here’s what the manager had to say as we prepare for Saturday’s big game against Pep Guardiola’s side…
If you win this weekend you’ll be six points ahead of Manchester City. How significant do you think that will be?
Mauricio Pochettino: “It’s not important today, the gap that we can take. The most important thing will be our performance, to show that we have improved a lot and we have learned from last season. It will be a very tough game. When you play against a team like Manchester City, always you must give your best to try to get the three points and that is our challenge but I think it’s too early to start to talk about decisive games or decisive points to try in the end to achieve big things. I think it’s too early – there’s a lot of games ahead.”
What have you made of Pep Guardiola’s first few months as a manager in England?
Mauricio: “For me, he is one of the best managers in the world but it’s normal – in English football in the last few years, the level has increased a lot. It’s always difficult to arrive at a new club, change the philosophy, settle your values and your principles but I think he is doing very well. We are in the top six, very, very close together, we are in a similar situation and I’m sure that in the end he will have success because he is a great manager.”
After your recent results against Manchester City and their defeat to Everton last week, do you have the edge over them?
Mauricio: “For me and for us, we try not to think what happened in the past. Every game is a different battle, it’s completely different emotions. Be sure that they are not happy with last week and they will try to show and play in front of their supporters and try to change the feeling that they got against Everton. It’s not a reference to the game before at White Hart Lane, it’s a completely different period, it will all be different and, for us, we need to try to focus on developing our game in the best way, try to show that we can be a real contender for the Premier League – that is, for us, the most important challenge. It’s more important to show ourselves that we can be a real contender than to show Manchester City. I think we need to show ourselves that we are capable of dealing with that pressure and try to win games to achieve big things.”
How is Jan Vertonghen?
Mauricio: “Jan is okay, he’s very positive and we are pushing him a lot. After a few days he is always spending the same time as us – 12 hours – at the training ground, it’s a little bit boring to see him! No, it’s okay, he is good, we expect (the recovery time will be) six weeks, less than was our idea in the first moment. I don’t want to set a time limit but I think it’s very positive and when your mind is good and positive, always you can recover early.”
Is it concerning that he also suffered an ankle injury with Belgium at Euro 2016?
Mauricio: “It’s similar, but nothing to do with the old injury that he suffered at the Euros. It’s different, maybe similar, but the good thing is that in the first moment it looked really bad, but when we assessed him the scan showed that it’s not how we thought from the beginning.”
Will you be tempted to sign cover for him in the transfer window?
Mauricio: “We have plenty of players that can perform in his place, we are very happy with the squad and the players that we have. We don’t need another.”
Will any players be leaving this month?
Mauricio: “No, only Tom Carroll, which you know. He moved to Swansea but we don’t expect another move.”
Can new signing Gabriel Jesus be a secret weapon for Manchester City this weekend?
Mauricio: “I know him very well because I saw him play in his national team in Brazil. I think he’s not a proper striker, he’s more a player that can play like a second striker. He’s very young, he has potential, a very talented player. Maybe he will be on the pitch or on the bench, I don’t know, but in my opinion he’s very young, he’s 19 years old and we need to wait. Today, it’s too difficult not to have an idea because with the internet, watching football from everywhere, you can find information quickly.”
How well did you get to know Pep Guardiola during your time in Spain?
Mauricio: “I know him very well because we played every season during four years – sometimes in the Copa del Rey, in La Liga maybe we played 10 times against each other and also because Barcelona is not very big like London and you can meet someone easily, so I know him very well. He has very good people on his staff, very good friends of mine. I spent many years close to Barcelona and he spent his life as a player in Barcelona."
It’s four years since you arrived in England as a manager. How do you reflect on yourself in that period?
Mauricio: “I am fat! I was younger than today, I’ve changed a lot. I think the new lifestyle in England was a change for me. It’s been an amazing time, I’ve learned a lot and for me it’s (been about) how to develop myself, how to know the new culture and the new language. It was a massive step for me personally and professionally and I am very thankful to England, to the Premier League and to the people here because they’ve helped a lot to improve myself and learn a lot. For me it was a big step forward in my career and personally too.”
If you win on Saturday that would be seven consecutive league wins for the first time in 50 years. How do you feel about that?
Mauricio: “It would be a fantastic achievement. Be sure that I will feel more proud than our players because they deserve full credit in all that has happened here. I think it will be fantastic and it’s true that we need to think about big things because Tottenham deserves that for history, we have amazing fans behind us. This season is a fantastic opportunity to show me, ourselves and the people outside, not only in England but the 90,000 people at Wembley when we played in the Champions League (what we can do). Now it’s difficult to be patient to arrive and compete for big things but it’s true that we started from the bottom to build a new philosophy, future – now we are in a very good way and our objective and our challenge is to fight for big, big things. It’s important now to keep the same level to show ourselves that we can fight, that we are in a good way and we can achieve big things in the future.”
How is Erik Lamela doing?
Mauricio: “It’s a good point because tomorrow he will have a scan. It’s still difficult to give the time that he can come back, we need to wait until tomorrow and then we’ll see what happens because there are still some problems, we are not sure of the diagnosis now and we need to wait until tomorrow. Now we are starting to be worried and concerned about him because he (has been out) nearly three months and is still in a situation where he hasn’t moved on.”
Do you feel like you’re further ahead in your project at Spurs than you expected to be at this stage?
Mauricio: “I don’t know, that is too difficult for me to judge because we are ambitious and we want to win every game. I think if we go backwards to our first season, we now start to see, analyse and judge and I think we are a thousand miles ahead but in football it’s about belief, it’s about faith, working hard and it’s true that the club has moved on in two-and-a-half years. That was our expectation – to push and move the club quickly, but sometimes it’s not possible. It’s true that now we are in a very good period and all that is related to Tottenham is exciting – you can see here, the new stadium, the squad – all that is happening is very positive.”
Will you consider loaning out Josh Onomah this month?
Mauricio: “No, I think it’s clear – Josh is a potential first team player like Cameron Carter-Vickers, like Harry Winks and like all the youngsters that are in our academy. I think that the best way to improve is training with us and trying to show that he deserves to be involved. In that moment, be sure that we will give him the opportunity to play and show his quality but no, we are not thinking of sending him out.”