Pochettino defends Tottenham’s attacking midfielders after defeat to Man United

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Mauricio Pochettino has defended Tottenham’s attacking midfielders after Sunday’s defeat to Manchester United.

While Christian Eriksen tested David de Gea on a few occasions, Dele Alli was poor, while Heung-Min Son was substituted before the hour-mark – and Harry Kane was uncharacteristically subdued up front in the 1-0 loss.

But Pochettino leapt to the defence of his players when it was suggested his side need more goals from their offensive midfielders.

“I think it’s not fair [to say that] now, after Manchester United, when we didn’t score, because one week ago after the Swansea game, when we won 5-0, it was all praise about our players,” he said.

“Now when we’ve played against Manchester United - a difficult game where we had some chances but didn’t score - I think it’s a little bit unfair that we start saying now that we need more goals from our second line, or the players that are in behind Harry Kane.

“In football it’s always about having a clear philosophy and being aggressive in both boxes - first of all trying to defend your box and then trying to score, and that balance is the most important thing.

“We know we need to score more and we need to be more aggressive and increase our level of performance, but I think it was an even game against Manchester United. There’s nothing to complain about.”

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The concern is that Tottenham struggled to find the net in a number of games earlier in the season - they managed just two goals in five games between October 18 and November 2, both of which were penalties.

Kane provided his thoughts on the matter immediately after Sunday’s game against United, stating: “People didn’t expect us to play so well last year, and press so high with such intensity.

“Now teams are maybe dropping off a bit more, letting us have the ball - and we have to find different solutions to unlock the door.

“Manchester United made it difficult for us to play out from the back. They made us play more long balls than we are used to playing. That was their game plan, and it worked.”

Asked for his views on Kane’s sentiments, Pochettino said: “You remember that we’ve played in different ways. We’ve used three different formations, three different set-ups.

“I don’t know, maybe that is the feeling. I didn’t hear what [Harry] said, but I think we need to try to find different ways to play.

“I think you need to respect the feeling of the players sometimes, or how they translate their feelings. That’s why we’re always finding different options to play - different formations, different animations during the game.”

Pochettino continued: “It can be one possibility that the expectation was higher – and there were some injuries. Harry Kane was out for 10 games, and Toby Alderweireld, and now Mousa Dembele – different players, so in the first period of the competition it was impossible to rotate and be more fresh in the Premier League.

“It’s true that last season, in that moment, we didn’t suffer too much with injuries. We rotated a lot, we arrived in a tough period with the same minutes and games played for the whole squad.

“It’s true that when we’re all together you can feel the team is stronger and we can compete better, if we have plenty of facility to choose.

“Maybe it’s a different aspect altogether - maybe it’s because we didn’t cope with the expectation.

“But if we see the results, today after 15 games we have 27 points. Last season, after 15 games, if my memory is good I think it was 26 points – it’s one point more than last season. And last season, in that moment, we’d got the qualification for the next round of the Europa League, like now. “I think we’re nearly in the same position as last season, and last season people were saying ‘Tottenham, wow!’. Now today the expectation was higher. That’s why we feel a little bit disappointed, of course because of the Champions League.

“It was a big challenge for us and that disappointed a lot our fans, our players, the coaching staff, all the people are very disappointed about it. That is the feeling.

“But in the end, if we analyse things and are very cold and we see the numbers, they are similar numbers to last season.”

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs