Dele Alli’s goal gesture against Barnsley was to a friend, insists Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino
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Spurs manager calls on his players to match the desire, motivation and aggression of the West Ham team this weekend
Mauricio Pochettino says Dele Alli’s goal celebration against Barnsley on Tuesday – cupping his ears to the crowd – was merely a joke intended for a friend in the stand.
For the second time this month the target of an Alli gesture has been the source of debate and speculation.
Fifa have opened disciplinary proceedings after the 21-year-old stuck his middle finger up during England’s match against Slovakia during the last international break – which Alli insists was aimed at Kyle Walker rather than the referee.
This week, the midfielder celebrated his decisive goal in Tuesday’s League Cup tie by cupping his ears towards the crowd.
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It has been suggested in some quarters that the action was a response to criticism from fans or the media.
But Pochettino explained today: “That was a situation that was a reference with one friend that was shared with someone in the stand.
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“It’s nothing related with us, the fans, the club, with nothing. It was only a joke with one friend in the stand. That’s true because yesterday he told me. I didn’t know about it [being a topic of debate].
“I was talking with Simon [the press officer] and he said ‘I asked Dele about that situation’. I said ‘that was with one friend’. I think that was the truth.”
Meanwhile, Harry Kane has been named on the 55-man shortlisted for the Fifpro World XI, and Pochettino feels that accolade underlines the fact that his striker has no need to leave Tottenham to show his ability.
“He was the only Englishman, no?” said the Spurs boss. “I’ve told you that for me Harry is one of the best strikers in the world, and that is the confirmation - how the people around the world see him.
“It doesn’t surprise me. I think maybe we have some [other] players who deserve to be included on the list but they are not there. I think Harry deserves it.
“Always many people are talking about him, about winning trophies – ‘we must win trophies if Harry is to stay here with us’ - but this says very clearly that people recognise his value and that he’s one of the best strikers, playing for Tottenham, when we still haven’t won trophies.
“As I’ve told you, for me Harry is a player that loves Tottenham and wants to stay here. He’s looking forward to playing here for a long, long time.”
Tottenham visit West Ham on Saturday for a fierce London derby, and a fixture they have lost 1-0 in each of the last two seasons.
Slaven Bilic’s side started this campaign with three successive defeats in the Premier Legaue. But they have now secured two victories and a draw from their last three matches in all competitions, beating Huddersfield 2-0 and Bolton 3-0 either side of a stalemate at West Brom.
Both triumphs came on home turf at the London Stadium – the scene for this weekend’s showdown – and the Hammers have kept clean sheets in all three games.
Pochettino, however, is paying little attention to the Hammers’ form.
“For me it means nothing,” he said. “Always you know very well the derby is a derby. It’s a special game. It means more than only three points against teams like West Ham, Arsenal or Chelsea and it’s sure they will be motivated, and their fans too - like us.
“That’s why it changes everything and it’s not important what happened last week or in the games before.
“We were very frustrated and disappointed [to lose in May]. We were fighting for the Premier League and it was a big disappointment for us. It wasn’t our best game or performance.
“But now it’s a different season, different circumstances and we’re so excited and ready to go there on Saturday and try to get the three points.
“The same excitement and motivation that they have to beat us, we must show the same level of desire, motivation and aggression.”
Erik Lamela, Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama are still out of action but Ben Davies is fit to return at left-back, while Pochettino has said he will decide tomorrow whether to pick Serge Aurier or Kieran Trippier at right-back.
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