Mauricio Pochettino wants the players to play with passion tonight in what he is billing as a make or break last two games to qualify for the Champions League.
After a couple of flat performances in the league, the Argentine is pushing for the squad to up its mental game as the season draws to a close:
“It’s in our hands. We need to die to try to achieve that. It’s not, ‘We need to play like this, with two centre-backs or two strikers or two keepers’. It’s about the players dying trying to achieve it.”
Poch looks to be going with a blood and thunder approach for these two final home games. Whether he’ll get the response he is looking for from the players and the fans tonight, we’ll soon find out.
The build-up to the game has been scattered with stories talking about the implications of missing out on Champions League football next season, yet the manager has been surprisingly blase about the financial consequences of finishing fifth:
“I think Daniel is safe with the money. It is not a problem. The plan four years ago was not to play every season in the Champions League to be sure that the club is going to survive.”
“If you over-achieve, fantastic. You have more money to invest in the facilities like the new stadium, but I don’t think money is a problem.”
It does sound like a mixed message, downplaying the importance of the money off the pitch, but upping the stakes on the pitch to finish as high as possible.
The reasoning for this is because Pochettino has always been focused on the long-term project. In his press conference yesterday, he talked about the progress that has been made in the last four years:
“When we arrived four years ago, the team was sixth in the table and the gap to the top four was massive. The dream is to fight and reduce the gap and four years after we are there.”
It’s hard to argue with him that during his time in charge, we have become title challengers, and are consistently in the running for top four finishes. If there is one season where we come fifth then for him, it’s not the end of the world. The bigger picture is more important to him.
For fans, that attitude can be hard to grasp sometimes. When a team is not winning trophies, and finishing lower than past seasons, it looks like stagnation and there is a fear that we are going backwards.
Poch’s vision for the club is well beyond the results of one solitary season. His intention is to build a dynasty. On more than one occasion he has said he is working at the club as if he will be here for life.
At 46 years of age, he is in no rush. He believes in what he is building, and he has the confidence that the trophies will come sooner rather than later.
We, as supporters, are hungry for success, which is no bad thing. However, it can also lead to impatience, and the fact that the club has only won one League Cup in the last decade, makes us understandably itching to get things rolling. The desperation to win is understood by the Argentine:
“I understand. To win is not an easy thing to achieve like magic. It’s about being second, third, to fight for the top four and if you keep going, keep going, taking the right decisions, you’ll be close to winning.”
The manager is optimistic that success will come eventually. He is confident in the project at Tottenham, even if we do fail to qualify for the Champions League this season.