Were you encouraged by the players’ performances in the three-at-the-back formation on Wednesday night against Hull?
Mauricio Pochettino: “I think it’s important to have different positions to play in during different games, to use different formations. After the game we were very pleased, happy that things are working well but (although) it’s a different way to play, always our philosophy is to respect the principles. We only change some positions on the pitch but in the end the team always shows the same principles and mentality on the pitch. I think we respect that a lot.”
Does it depend on which game you are approaching when it comes to choosing your formation?
Mauricio: “It’s about how we feel sometimes with the team, the players, the momentum – there are many reasons when we take a decision to change. The good thing is that during the season, sometimes we changed in different games but now it’s a natural habit and the players are not affected by that. They are very pleased to play in different situations and that is very important – to have different alternatives to play and to cope with all the demands of the game.”
Do you think the tweaked formation has helped Christian Eriksen to hit form?
Mauricio: “Always we try to find a way to help all the team, like on the training ground when we work very hard – it’s because we try to provide them with the better tools to help them to improve in their game. I don’t want to say that it was the formation that helped him, he was the protagonist in the action, he was aggressive with the ball and that is a good thing to keep now and in the future for the team, not only for him.”
Another Premier League manager said this week that he can’t recall a team winning the Premier League while playing three at the back. Do you think it’s possible to do that?
Mauricio: “I respect all opinions. We’ll see. Chelsea are at the top, playing three at the back but we’ll see. I am not categoric in football because with all formations, with all the ways, you can win with all. One thing is very important – you cannot win if your players don’t believe in the way that you propose to play. We can see different ways in which teams have won big things like World Cups. In my experience – I am very young, of course – I have seen in Argentina two completely different ways like with Menotti in 1978 (when they won) the World Cup and in 1986 in Mexico (with Bilardo). Argentina won two World Cups, one with Menotti, another with Bilardo – both on opposite sides. Football is not one truth, it’s millions of truths.”
Is Mousa Dembele back for the Burnley game?
Mauricio: “We need to assess him tomorrow. He is improving in the last few days but I'm not sure if he will be available, like Vincent Janssen – he is improving a lot in the last few days but we are not sure if he will be available or not. We are happy and, if not this weekend, be sure that in 10 days against Southampton he will be available. Erik Lamela is improving a lot but for this week he is still out. It will be difficult (for him to make the Southampton game) but we’ll see. He’s improving a lot in the last few days after he got back from Argentina. We are happy in the way that he is recovering but it’s too early to say if he will be ready for Southampton.”
What type of game are you expecting against Burnley?
Mauricio: “Difficult because it’s a team that has a very clear idea of how they play, they are strong physically and mentally. It’s a very difficult team to play, we can see that in different games. In their last game against West Ham it was difficult for West Ham and in the end a (goal after a) penalty decided the game but you know, the Premier League is always tough. The most important thing is to try to arrive fresh with the ideas clear of how we need to play and what we need to do, then try to give our best.”
Do you think you’re close to reaching the levels of last season?
Mauricio: “That is a question that is too difficult to answer because if you see the table now, we have four points more than last season after 16 games. Maybe I think we feel disappointed after the Champions League and the expectations were too high from the beginning of the season, but it’s true that after 16 games in the Premier League we have four points more, the gap with the second team in the table is four points and 10 with the top. Last season it was nine or eight points with Leicester at the top and seven points with the second (placed team). We can see that we’ve improved a little bit from last season but that feeling is difficult to put away because the disappointment and frustration of the Champions League killed a little bit the positive things that we are doing from the beginning of the season.”
Do you think the other contenders at the top of the table have also improved this season?
Mauricio: “We were in the same position, fifth, in the table last season. Then we are talking about two teams, Liverpool and Chelsea, who are not involved in European competitions – that is completely different to us. You know the potential of them, the investment in the summer was massive, it’s normal that they improve but in the end I think we need to compare us with us and try to improve every season. We are in a different project and a different philosophy and we need to take the positive things. I can repeat again, the expectations were very high from the beginning of the season, after being out of the Champions League I think that feeling is not so good but we are working well, doing very good things and sometimes (people) are too focused on negative things rather than all the positives.”
You’ve been linked with a few players this week – are you actively looking for new recruits?
Mauricio: “It’s a lot of rumours, if not players in then players out but that is the period that we need to accept. We are very calm but I think it’s too difficult to talk about rumours.”
Do you think that the club will find the right balance in January with the new stadium project also ongoing?
Mauricio: “Yes, it’s not a problem. I told you before that it’s always difficult in January to take decisions to bring players in. I think it will be tough but we are open. It will be difficult to try to improve our squad in January because it’s not an easy job.”
What do you think is Eric Dier’s best position?
Mauricio: “First of all, Eric Dier is 22 years old, he’s a player that arrived here when he was 19 years old and after two-and-a-half years he is a player that has averaged every season more than 40 games. Like all the young players, sometimes you can use him in a different position but his quality means he is a player that can play in different positions and that is very important for every coach. We’ll see in the future in which position he can give his best football but for me, he is a player who can play like a centre-back, like a midfielder or sometimes can play like a full-back as you have seen in different games in the last two-and-a-half years.”
Is it going to be important for Eric to settle in one position eventually?
Mauricio: “The most important thing for the young players is to be in the starting XI and play, try to improve and be consistent in regularly playing games. It’s not a moment to explain different players that play in different positions but the most important thing is to have the opportunity to play and build his career with strong values and principles. We are very happy with him, from day one he was a very important player for us. I always remember in my first official game, he scored – he was playing like a centre-back, then after Kyle Naughton (got a red card) we decided to play him like a full-back and he scored an unbelievable winning goal. For me, the most important thing is that he is very young and that he is improving every day.”
Were you surprised to see the reports recently claiming that he wasn’t happy in his position and that other teams were interested in him?
Mauricio: “I never heard from him that he wasn’t happy when he was playing like a midfielder, like a centre-back or like a full-back. He never came to me to say that he was not happy to play in that or another position and for that reason, like before, we are talking about rumours and it’s too difficult to say things.”
People often praise his character. Do you think he could be a future captain of the club?
Mauricio: “Why not? Of course, he’s a very good prospect, I think he’s a talented player and we are very happy with him. Why not, one day?”
DON’T MISS SUNDAY’S OFFICIAL MATCHDAY PROGRAMME!
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- Feature interview with our former Burnley right-back Kieran Trippier
- Mauricio Pochettino's exclusive column
- Discussing the talents of Heung-Min Son in 'Centre of Attention'
- Festive chat with this year's signings in 'My First Spurs Christmas'
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- A look at Burnley's squad and a chat with their ex-winger Leighton James
- Recalling the times we played on Christmas Day!
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