Pochettino belatedly berates Spurs players for shambles at Newcastle as he aims to improve mental strength
It may seem an unusual way to prepare for a new campaign, but Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino admits he has belatedly berated his players for their embarrassing defeat at Newcastle on the final day of last season.
Spurs went into the final three games with a shot at the title, but a 2-2 draw in a bad-tempered London derby against Chelsea ended their dreams, and they went on to lose 2-1 at home to Southampton before suffering a humiliating defeat on Tyneside.
The Lilywhites were visiting a side that had already been relegated but they contrived to lose 5-1, conceding the last three goals when they had an extra man, and slipped below arch-rivals Arsenal in the final standings.
There was no time for Pochettino to voice his immense displeasure at the time as his players immediately disbanded for the summer, but he wound the clock back to make his feelings clear when the first-team squad was reunited following Spurs’ pre-season trip to Melbourne.
It might appear an odd tactic, bringing bad memories back to the surface and potentially undermining confidence shortly before the Premier League season gets underway again.
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However, Pochettino wants his squad to learn from their mistakes, and he believes the biggest improvement his players can make this season concerns their mentality and focus.
“When we came [back] from Australia, we talked a little bit about that,” said the Argentine. “They need to hear from the manager my feelings - how I felt after the game and after the season, because there was no time to share [at the time].
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“I explained my point of view and that was a very good meeting between each other, to share our feelings. That is a good point to improve for the future.
“You know what my feelings were - I wanted to kill all of them, and I did not have the opportunity to kill them. I kill myself too.
“I just told them ‘if I had the opportunity to kill you then I kill everyone’. I am very honest with them and they are very honest with me. That is a very good relationship.
“Could I be the first manager to start pre-season by being angry with the players?
Maybe, yes. But it’s a good point because always I believe that we need to use our experience to improve.
“They are human and, after a very tough season, it was tough to manage the last few weeks because when you are young or when you have some experiences it’s normal that you have to think about personal things, personal challenges.
“After Chelsea it was difficult to manage the situation because it was impossible to win the title and then in your mind you are tired. The whole season, it was a big stress and we lacked focus to finish the season in the way that we deserved.”
Pochettino continued: “Football is tactical, physical, technical, but it is also mental - more mental than many years ago, and today to be strong in your mind and how to improve is important. We need to know how to improve our mental state.
“I think this was key in the last few games of last season. To move the team on, to improve, to achieve another level, it is here that we need to improve.
“It is not tactical, it is not philosophical, because after two years we know very well how we need to play. It is here in our heads that we need to improve. Sometimes we were very focused and other times it was like a war again.”
Pochettino admits that, at the end of a Euro 2016 tournament which was disappointing for a number of Spurs’ players – including the England contingent - he harboured some concerns about how his stars would react, and how their experiences in France would affect their performances for Tottenham. However, his fears have since been allayed.
“It’s strange, but [there’s been] no impact for them,” he said. “The good thing is that they are very happy to be back here training together on the training ground, with unbelievable energy.
“That was our worry as a coaching staff, how they would assimilate the situation. But it is unbelievable how they behave and the energy they show now. They completely forget the Euros, and they are very focused on and excited about the season we have ahead.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for them to show and try to achieve things - like Hugo [Lloris] was very close to achieving a very good and important trophy [at Euro 2016]. We need to use that, and not feel disappointed or angry, to win titles or lift trophies. “Hugo is coming in a very good way, like all our international players. It is that that has surprised us, because we don’t need to work too much, only to say ‘come on, start to run and run and play’.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs