Pochettino eager to tighten screw on Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is relishing the opportunity to load more pressure upon Premier League leaders Chelsea following his side’s superb derby win over Arsenal.
Chelsea took a step closer to the title by winning at Everton on Sunday, but Spurs are still snapping at their heels, their dazzling 2-0 defeat of Arsenal leaving them four points off the pace.
Spurs can close the gap to a slender point if they win at West Ham United on Friday, which would leave Chelsea to stew for three days before their home game with Middlesbrough the following Monday.
“We are in the race for the title,” Pochettino told reporters at White Hart Lane.
“We reduce again the gap with Chelsea and that for us is the focus now because we have another important game ahead on Friday against West Ham.”
Asked if victory at West Ham would represent a psychological blow in the title race, Pochettino replied: “It will be. We’ll see after.
“We will have the chance to play before them and if we are capable to win against West Ham, which will be another tough derby game, then we’ll see what happens with them against Middlesbrough.”
Spurs’ win was a fitting way for the team to bow out in the final north London derby at White Hart Lane, which will be demolished to make way for their new 61,000-seater stadium.
Dele Alli broke the deadlock in the 55th minute, sliding home the rebound after Petr Cech had saved from Christian Eriksen, with Harry Kane adding a nerveless penalty three minutes later.
Had it not been for the acrobatics of Arsenal goalkeeper Cech, the home side might have won by a landslide.
It was Spurs’ ninth straight victory, their 13th successive home win and ensured they will finish the season looking down on Arsenal in the standings for the first time since 1995.
Pochettino said his players had not watched Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Everton earlier on Sunday.
While he admitted to personal disappointment over Spurs’ failure to eat into Chelsea’s lead more significantly, he said nothing could take the sheen off his team’s performance.
“Disappointed about Chelsea? After 2-0 here against Arsenal? Do you believe we’re disappointed?” he asked with a smile.
“Of course I am disappointed, because it was a great opportunity to reduce the gap.“We are four (points behind), there are four games to play. All is possible in football. We’ll see what happens next week.
“Now it’s a moment to feel proud, happy, because the last derby against Arsenal (at White Hart Lane), all that it means for our fans, for everyone that loves Tottenham, it was a fantastic afternoon.”
Arsenal lie six points off the Champions League places, but have games in hand on fourth-place Manchester City and fifth-place Manchester United, both of whom also dropped points.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has asserted that talk of a north London power shift is premature and he suggested the 17-point gap that separates the teams was misleading.
“The points are the points,” said the Frenchman, who tasted defeat for only the eighth time in 50 north London derbies.
“They don’t come from heaven. You earn them on the pitch.“Often in the final part of a season, that can go one way or the other without really reflecting the difference between the teams.”
Wenger, whose side will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final, attributed his side’s defeat to “soft defending” and a “soft penalty”, awarded for a swipe at Kane by Gabriel.
Arsenal host Jose Mourinho’s United next weekend and Wenger conceded his team face a battle to earn a top-four finish.“It will be very difficult now, but we have to fight,” he said.
“We have a cup final. We have still a chance to get in the top four. We have to recover from today and prepare for our next games.”