Did Gent surprise you with their performance last week?
Mauricio Pochettino: “No they didn’t surprise me last week, we were poor and they were better than us – for that, they won. We watched many games about them, we knew the quality and the (levels of) performance there. It didn’t surprise me, I think the thing that surprised me the most was our performance, not their performance. Tomorrow we are aware of how they play and it’s up to us to try to be better and show that we deserve to go to the next round. It’s not about the opponents, it’s about us.”
Last season, you rotated a lot in this competition. Are you planning to play a full-strength side on Thursday?
Mauricio: “We will try tomorrow to put the best team (out) to try to win like always. For me, football is about the squad, maybe sometimes I repeat too much that it’s about the squad but tomorrow it’s a big opportunity to go to the next round. It’s (like) a final, it’s a decisive game for us, we are 1-0 down and now for us it’s (about) trying to get the result and trying to win the game. We will try to put out the best players that we believe can win the game and bring us to the next round.”
When it comes to winning trophies, what do you think is missing?
Mauricio: “Time – we cannot buy time. That is the most important thing for us. It’s too easy to say we want to win titles and we want to move the club to the next level like when you are building the facilities that we are in now and the new stadium – always it’s time. It’s time to create that, it’s time to create the new stadium and it’s time to create a team capable of winning trophies. We are in that process to try to build a very good squad, to try to fight with the big sides and to try in the end to win titles.”
How important is it that you get the balance right between attack and defence against Gent?
Mauricio: “Tomorrow we need to be patient. It’s important to know that tomorrow is a game that we need to win, that is in our mind. We need to turn the result (around) and it’s true that we need to have very good balance – that is key. It’s important for us to keep the balance between attacking and defence because it’s only 1-0 from the first leg and now we have time to turn it (around). We need to be clever, play well, be aggressive and improve our performance from the game in Belgium. That will be key – to be aggressive and try to keep patient with how we play.”
You’ve made good progress since you’ve been in charge – is the next step towards winning trophies the hardest part?
Mauricio: “Of course. It is the hardest job to win titles. You can win games but to win titles, the Premier League, that is another step. It is the harder job to try to move the club on. I agree, we have improved a lot, I am very happy with the progress in the last two years. It’s true now that it's a harder job to try to win titles because when you compete with a big side, that is not only improving in different aspects – to win titles you need to show all that and more quality too.”
Tottenham fans haven’t had to show too much patience in the last couple of years because of your progress – do you think patience is going to be needed as you look to take the next step?
Mauricio: “One thing is very clear and realistic. We are building a new stadium, that process is always a tough period for every club, then when the club has the tools to try to fight with the big sides to try to win we will arrive at that moment, but today we are in the same process as the club. We finished the training ground a few years ago, that is fantastic, one of the best in the world, we are building a new stadium that will be one of the best and the team is in the same process that we started two years ago, or maybe one-and-a-half years ago – to try to build a new team, a new mentality and a new philosophy. We are in that process – we need to be patient.”
Is it helpful for you and the players to continue playing these games at Wembley ahead of a potential full season there?
Mauricio: “Yes, for us it’s a great opportunity. Next season it will be tough to play every game there, we need to make Wembley home and that’s important for us. The last game against CSKA in the Champions League was good for us – we played well and we started to feel better but it’s true that the first two games we played in the Champions League we didn’t play well but it wasn’t because of Wembley. It’s true that when you play regularly you start to feel like it’s your home and for us it’s perfect to play there because next season we will play many games there. It’s not confirmed but we all hope that we will play next season at Wembley. That will show very clearly that we are very close to finishing our stadium.”
Have your players been practicing penalties in case there’s a penalty shootout against Gent?
Mauricio: “I am honest – no! I hope that we will not arrive at penalties and I trust in them because you can shoot 100 penalties here (at the training ground) without supporters but when the moment arrives when you take the ball in front of 90,000 fans, you start to shake. A penalty is not about practice, it’s about personality, character and the conviction to shoot and score.”
Can you detect what type of performance the team is going to give at the start of games?
Mauricio: “Yes. The problem is to change that. When we start a game, if you only watch 50 seconds you don't need to be a genius (to see) if we will struggle or there is a problem in that game because we're not focused. In that moment it's too difficult to change – we changed the formation at half-time (against Gent last week) to try to lift them but it was impossible. The problem is when you don’t start in a good way it’s too difficult to change that perception and then you give a very good signal to the opponent that you are not focused on the game. Then to change that mentality is too difficult during the game.”
Do you think that for the rest of this season you will look to play your strongest team in every game now?
Mauricio: “I will play with the players that deserve to play and show me that they can cope with the pressure. Then to win or lose is another thing. Every time that I take the decision like in the past it’s because I believe the players can provide the three points or the victories. The only thing I can say is that every time I pick the starting XI it’s because I believe the players can win and can do well. It’s not about rotating or not rotating, it’s about selecting the better players.”
Would you like to be able to rotate your squad a bit more?
Mauricio: “That is my decision, like when they play or don’t play it’s because I believe they deserve or don’t deserve it or the combination in the team is not right. It’s for many, many reasons.”
DON’T MISS OUR OFFICIAL MATCHDAY PROGRAMME AT WEMBLEY!
Pick up your copy of our official matchday programme at the Gent match at Wembley on Thursday.
It’s £3.50 for 100 pages, including...
- Main feature interview with Belgian international Toby Alderweireld
- Mauricio Pochettino's exclusive column
- Exclusive chat with Mido, the former forward who played for both clubs
- The history between Harry Kane and Gent's ex-Spurs academy defender William Troost-Ekong
- Examining our previous encounters with Belgian sides in Europe
- Discussing the development of Georges-Kevin Nkoudou in 'Centre of Attention'
- All the info on Gent's squad and much more
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