We understand Mousa Dembele is available again after being absent last week. How much of a boost is that?
Mauricio Pochettino: “I think it’s important. Before the game against Millwall he suffered a minor problem in his ankle, he wasn’t part of the game but this week he’s trained well. Tomorrow is the last training session but he was good during the week.”
Kyle Walker picked up an ankle injury at home. What happened?
Mauricio: “That is a private matter. After the day off on Monday, he arrived back here on Tuesday with a problem with his ankle. He could not train during the week, we need to assess (him) tomorrow and we’ll see if he’s available for Sunday.”
How long do you think you’ll be without Harry Kane?
Mauricio: “I don’t know. We need to assess him day by day. He is very positive, that is good but at the same time we need to be careful with his injury – we have complete, full trust in our doctors and physios and all the (medical) department to look after him in the best way and we’ll see. We hope that as soon as possible he can be available again. That is our desire, our wish.”
Can you cope without Harry?
Mauricio: “Yes. What can we do now? It’s only to find solutions because Harry Kane is in a process to be available again and to be fit. We have many players that can cope with that pressure. After seven minutes against Millwall (when Harry got injured) we scored six goals – a hat-trick for Sonny, Vincent… we’ll see. We are very confident in our players and our squad and now we don’t need to try to find excuses, only play, perform as well, try to score goals and win games and that is our challenge for the squad.”
Is this a moment where you find out about other members of the squad?
Mauricio: “It’s the same period that we had at the beginning of the season. That was difficult because we lost Harry Kane for seven or eight weeks and I remember that one of the best performances was without Harry Kane against Manchester City at home, 2-0. For me it’s always about the team, it’s about collective performance. We have good players, players that sometimes deserve to play but we pick different players and today is a great opportunity for players like Vincent Janssen or Sonny to play more regularly in the starting XI. I think it’s a great chance for them.”
How do you assess Vincent Janssen’s time at the club so far?
Mauricio: “If you see different players that arrived this season in the Premier League, there’s a lot of examples. When you have a main striker like Harry Kane that scores goals and plays well, it’s difficult for your second or third striker or offensive player to take his place or have the possibility to play. He is very young, he came from Holland, a different league, the adaptation to the Premier League is always difficult. He is in a process to learn and improve and it’s only his first season in England.”
Is it an opportunity for Heung-Min Son as well?
Mauricio: “Yes, too, it’s a big opportunity for him. The system that we’ve used in the last few months, we’ve not played with two or three strikers but today Harry Kane is not available and he will have the chance to play more.”
How important is it that you make the most of the next five or six matches?
Mauricio: “Every game will be tough, the Premier League is the toughest competition in the world. Game by game we need to be focused, now on Southampton. For me, the most important game now is Southampton. It will be tough, they have very good players, it’s a very good team and for us, it will be key to get the three points but for that we need to play well and we need to deserve it over the 90 minutes. It will be a tough game because they are playing well.”
How impressed have you been with Manolo Gabbiadini since his arrival at Southampton?
Mauricio: “I am very impressed with him. I think Southampton have found a very good player in him, he is a player that we need to be focused on but I repeat, I think Southampton have very good players, it’s a very good team, a great manager and I think it’s a team that will put us in a very difficult situation.”
How important is your good home record going to be in the grand scheme of things?
Mauricio: “For us it’s important to take the three points but first of all we need to play the game and try to show that we deserve it. We need to give our best, keep pushing, we need to keep our position in the table and try to put pressure on Chelsea. It’s 11 games (left) in the Premier League and we need to give our best now in the last period of the season.”
What do you do to manage the players to avoid fatigue?
Mauricio: “We are always looking to try to give the best tools for them to improve, to recover as soon as possible after every game. We have great staff working for that but we are not worried – we are in a good condition, we are assessing and analysing everything to try to help them and we are not worried in the last period of the season because we will arrive in a very good condition. Then, win or lose, that is a different thing, it’s about football, but we are not worried about our physical condition.”
Are you happy with refereeing in England in general?
Mauricio: “Yes, I am happy. To be a referee is so difficult. It’s a very difficult job – worse than us to be a manager. Sometimes we (act like) the referee during the training sessions and it’s so difficult to manage the players – all complain, all wanted the ball, they never make a foul – it’s so difficult and we need to recognise that their job is so difficult. Always they will have my support and I am happy in the way the Premier League is. I think football here is exciting because of the referees too. They are an important part of that excitement. Then we can say that they are not perfect, we all make mistakes, sometimes they make mistakes, they are human and it’s so difficult to take a decision in a very short space of time. For that, they will always have my support. I admire them for that.”
Did you watch Leicester’s game against Sevilla this week and are you jealous of their continued involvement in the Champions League?
Mauricio: “I did watch it but no, the Champions League is a closed chapter. I am more disappointed to be out of the Europa League. That hurt me more than the Champions League.”
Why do you think English teams have struggled so much in Europe of late?
Mauricio: “Because in the Premier League it’s so difficult to manage the Premier League, to manage the cups and then be fresh to play against a very good team in Europe. The whole of Europe, all the players in all the leagues, their most important competition or challenge is the Champions League or, for many teams, the Europa League. They rest players to play in the Champions League or the Europa League. That is completely different here. Here, the competition means you cannot rest players, you cannot make changes. At Christmas it’s the toughest period of the competition when in Europe they are all in Dubai, the Bahamas – I don’t know where they are but you are training, you are competing, you are very focused on playing football and that is how it affects the situation now, in February or March, when you play in Europe. I think that is a big advantage for the teams that play in Europe and you realise that for us it’s very tough.”
What’s different this time compared to when Harry Kane was out injured earlier in the season?
Mauricio: “We hope that things will be different than in that moment. I think it was a different period, now the team is completely different. That was in September, are were finding our best. It’s different because the team is more solid, we’ve improved a lot from that period. It was a very difficult pre-season after the Euros and today is a completely different period. We are in a completely different level.”
Toby Alderweireld and Victor Wanyama have been two of the club’s most successful signings since you took over. They’ve both come from Southampton – do you think it helped that they came from a club with a similar philosophy to yours?
Mauricio: “No, I don’t believe that it’s easier to come from a club like Southampton. Sometimes it happens that you fit quickly into a team, into a group, into a squad and that was good for Toby and Victor because they felt at home from day one and they showed the quality to play football for Tottenham. I think it’s impossible to compare Southampton with Tottenham. It’s not worse or better, we are two different clubs, the philosophy is completely different and it’s not fair to say they fitted quickly for the team and they adapted their game because they came from Southampton because it was a similar philosophy. I think it’s not fair to say that. They are good for different reasons and today you feel that maybe Victor or Toby are here for a lot of time in the team.”
How pleased were you to see Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse in the England squad?
Mauricio: “I am very happy for him. He is a great professional, a great player and he deserves to be called up for the national team because he’s a fighter and he’s a great, great professional. Me and the staff feel very happy because in the time we shared with him at Southampton, he was very important for us.”