What’s the latest on Danny Rose?
Mauricio Pochettino: “We need to wait until Monday, he will see the specialist and then we will explain. There is no indication (of how long he will be out for) because now we need to see the result of his scan yesterday afternoon and on Monday he is going to see the specialist.”
What about the other team news?
Mauricio: “Hugo (Lloris) will be okay – yesterday and today he trained well and he will be available for tomorrow. GK (Nkoudou) is doing well and Kieran Trippier but they’re still out for tomorrow. Next week they will be involved in team training from day one and will be available for next week. Jan Vertonghen is very positive, he is running outside and we are very positive about him but he still needs a few weeks more. Erik Lamela is step-by-step, very slow. We are positive but we need to be cautious with how we assess him. We are positive in all.”
How important is it to you that Arsenal prevent Chelsea from winning before you play Middlesbrough on Saturday?
Mauricio: “The most important is always us. Look at what happened against Sunderland, it was a big opportunity for us to reduce the gap and we were incapable of winning the game. For me it’s always (about) focusing on us, trying to win and showing that we deserve at the end to win the game and to get the three points, then we’ll see what happens in other stadiums and other games. I think it’s more important to be focused on us, if not we will struggle a little bit. I think we missed a big opportunity to reduce the gap (at the top of the table on Tuesday).”
Do you want Arsenal to win this weekend?
Mauricio: “I don’t care about other teams and the result of Chelsea against Arsenal. It’s important for us to improve and show that we can be real contenders for the title. That is what we believe and in the end (maybe) you need some help from another team but I am very honest, I am very focused on trying to improve because after the last game I am not so happy. In the first 45 minutes against Sunderland our performance wasn’t good, that is true, we were poor but we need to show against Middlesbrough from the first minute that we deserve to win the game and do our job.”
Would you say it’s a must-win game against Middlesbrough now then?
Mauricio: “I think you have to win every game if you want to be on the top. We have, after a few days, another opportunity to change the feeling after Tuesday but it’s true that the opportunity that you miss is never (going to) come back. We can console ourselves and say ‘okay, they drew, every team struggled to compete and be regular’ but for me that excuse is not good for us. I don’t like to allow us to make excuses and for that reason, for me, Saturday is a great opportunity to show a different performance, be more aggressive from the beginning and try to win. Then it’s a game that you can win or you can lose but not how we showed in the first half against Sunderland. You can accept winning or losing but in a different way.”
Is it still an option for you to play with three at the back, even with Danny Rose injured?
Mauricio: “Maybe, yes. It’s an option but we’ll see tomorrow. It’s true that we never like to explain (the tactics) the day before to you but it’s an option to play with three at the back or four. We have different players that can cope with the positions or different formations. We have Kevin Wimmer or Ben Davies with (Eric) Dier, (Kyle) Walker and Toby (Alderweireld) and maybe we can play with a back four. I think we have different options but for me the formation is not important in the end, it’s important how we develop our philosophy on the pitch.”
You must be aware that Middlesbrough seem a strong proposition away from home...
Mauricio: “In different seasons we have different results. Today, so far, we are very strong at home, we feel very comfortable to play at White Hart Lane, the atmosphere is unbelievable and so far we have taken very good results at home. It’s true that (playing) away is always difficult but we are happy, we are in a very good position, always our ambition is to be better but we are happy in the way that we are playing. Maybe we missed some points away but it’s a process that’s about improving. I am happy with how we are behaving so far.”
Tell us about your working relationship with Aitor Karanka following your time in Spain…
Mauricio: “We took the pro license together in Madrid, we know (each other) very well and we’ve played against (each other) a lot of times. He is very young, he is a very good manager, he is doing well and I think it will be a very tough game for both teams.”
Now that you’re playing catch-up with the league leaders like last season, are you approaching anything differently this time around?
Mauricio: “I can explain a lot of things but I think we’ve improved and we compete better. It’s not because we are now in a similar position to last season – I told you a few weeks ago that I am happy in the way that we’ve improved and how we compete. I think we’ve moved forward as a team, we are more competitive now. There are a lot of examples like maybe against West Bromwich Albion or Chelsea – it wasn’t our best performance or our best game but we competed well and if you want to fight for big things, not only do you need to play well, you need to compete at a good level. That, for me, is the most important thing. When you are building a project, when you are building a team and when you are in a process to settle your basis, it’s true that maybe you’ve heard me for two-and-a-half years where I’ve repeated the same but in football it’s important to take time to build, to change some rules and some mentalities. We are in a process where we are going forward, every season we find different motivations and different ways to play and improve the team. We are very happy in the way that we are. In the timeline we are in a process to be bigger than we are.”
Is that psychologically quite difficult?
Mauricio: “Of course, that area is key because mentality is about your thinking, your brain and that always is (difficult) to change. When you settle some habits in your mind, that is the worst. For your physical condition, if you run one hour every day you can improve easily and quickly but to settle different ideas in your mind is always a longer process.”
You seem to have been worried about the approach of the team at the start of the last few games. What’s the reason for that?
Mauricio: “Sometimes to keep the same level in 10 months is difficult. If we assess every team, every team in different periods has ups and downs. In the last few games against Wycombe and Sunderland, we were not happy with our first 45 minutes and it’s true that with different players and different formations we struggled a little bit. That is something that we have talked a lot about after Sunderland but we hope that we can turn that situation and play how we played against Chelsea and West Brom and give our best from the beginning.”
Are you happy that Erik Lamela is mentally ready to approach not just the rest of the season but a longer spell with Tottenham?
Mauricio: “All negative things you can turn positive and for me that is key. It’s true that we were talking this morning and he was very positive. Today we were talking and he said ‘I want to play here, I want to play in Tottenham, I want to play for this club, I want to be in England and I want to play football.’ Now he is very focused on his recovery and to be available as soon as possible. That is a massive improvement and a big power because you are capable of all if you believe and you are focused on recovering from your problem.”
DON’T MISS SATURDAY’S OFFICIAL MATCHDAY PROGRAMME!
Pick up your copy of our official matchday programme at the Middlesbrough game on Saturday.
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- Heung-Min Son on character and comebacks in our exclusive main interview
- Harry Kane looks forward to Sunday's Super Bowl 51
- Mauricio Pochettino's exclusive column
- Vincent Janssen profiled in 'Centre of Attention'
- Interviews with Martin Chivers and ex-Boro full-back Dean Gordon
- Celebrating 10 years of the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation
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