When you play Football Manager, and you are two or three goals up at half time, one of your team talk options is to say “don’t get complacent.” More often than not, your players won’t listen to you, and the inevitable comeback from your opponent happens anyway.
Mauricio Pochettino has however decided to use the “don’t get complacent” line when talking about us qualifying for the Champions League:
“You need to focus on winning games and winning points and when mathematically you achieve what you want, then it’s over. Until then, it’s impossible to think like that. Football can always surprise you.”
I know he is trying to send a message out to both the players and the fans, but at this stage, it would be a serious capitulation if we don’t qualify and finish fourth at least.
I understand where Poch is coming from in some ways. Our focus will move shortly towards the semi-final against United in eight days time, but before then, we’ve got two matches in the league that he is keen for us to win.
Refocusing minds is certainly a good strategy, but if we can’t finish above Chelsea in the position we are in now, then really we don’t deserve Champions League football.
We are on a 14 game unbeaten run in the league since we lost to City in December, and we have great momentum heading into the last month of the season. The ideal scenario would be to win our next four games in all competitions.
We would be in the FA Cup final, and secure in the top four. We can then focus 100% on winning that first trophy in Pochettino’s reign. Even if we don’t perform to those standards in the league though, we have multiple opportunities to seal the deal.
If we lose against City, and Chelsea win versus Southampton, the gap will still be seven points with five games to go. With home games against Watford, Newcastle and Leicester (all teams who have very little to play for), that should be nine points if we are playing anywhere near our best. And that will be enough.
It’s a testament to this great run we’ve been on that we are in such a great position heading into the crucial latter stages of the campaign, and despite Poch’s caution we have a fantastic chance of making this his most successful season yet.