Pochettino faces tricky balancing act as he tries to manage his Spurs squad through seven games in 23 days
Mauricio Pochettino says he faces a tricky balancing act as he attempts to prepare his international players for Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion and then manage his squad through a gruelling spell which features seven matches in 23 days.
The majority of Spurs’ stars have spent the last week and a half with their national teams, travelling different distances and playing varying numbers of minutes.
It all complicates the picture for Pochettino, who plans meticulously to ensure his players stay in peak condition collectively – and admits he has some headaches as he not only selects his starting line-up for Saturday’s trip to West Brom but also plans how to rotate his squad for the following sequence of matches.
This weekend’s clash in the Midlands is swiftly followed by three more away games in succession – against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday, Bournemouth next Saturday and then Liverpool – and Spurs go on to host Leicester City and Leverkusen before taking on Arsenal in the north London derby on Sunday November 6.
“We know Saturday is a very important game and want to try and win the game and win the three points but, in the same way, we have many, many issues or ideas in our head,” said Pochettino. “Because it’s not the case that we only have one game ahead, West Bromwich - that it’s this game and we need the three points and then it’s the end of the season.
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“We have seven games in 23 days and after the international duty the players that played a lot, or that have come back from injury like Danny Rose or Eric Dier, or [Erik] Lamela, who arrived yesterday, or [Heung-Min] Son from Asia, we need to be clever in how we prepare for the game and the decisions that we shall take to be ready to compete in Germany, Bournemouth, Liverpool.
“I think it’s very important now, these next seven games. We need to manage and handle all the players. We’re working very hard to be right for Saturday, to take the best decisions and not risk losing any players for the next six games.
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“The problem is that we’ve had 16 or 17 players going away in two weeks, and to put it all together now is a very complicated job.
“For the players we had here for two weeks it was easy because they were under control and followed our habit. But the players that were in Argentina and played two 90-minute games, or were with the national team and did not play, they arrive now at a different level with different things - tiredness because sometimes they haven’t been able to go to sleep.
“You always need a few days to settle and put it all together and, for that reason, Saturday will be a very tough game. It’s a very important game and it’s not easy to take the decisions because it’s not only that we must win, we must also be ready to compete in every game.”
Tottenham entered the international break on a high after a hugely impressive 2-0 home win over league leaders Manchester City, who had won all of their six previous top-flight fixtures under Pep Guardiola.
Unfortunately, Pochettino feels most of the mental benefits that his side gained from that victory – the sense of confidence, belief and momentum – has since dissipated.
“If you compete [again] after three days, and Manchester City was the first game in a run of seven, it’s fantastic because that is a big, big boost,” he said.
“But it was at the end and then the players go away. And now they come back like Christian [Eriksen], who is coming back very disappointed with the last result (a 1-0 home defeat to Montenegro), or the England players, and now our job is to be more than coaches - to be psychologists too.”
Tottenham’s players will need to be switched on when they face West Brom on Saturday because the Baggies have been something of a bogey team in recent years.
Spurs have only won one of their last six matches against Albion, drawing four times and losing the other encounter.
Both of last season’s meetings ended 1-1, and the tie at White Hart Lane at the end of April was a hammer blow to the Lilywhites’ title chances as Craig Dawson cancelled out his first-half own goal with a 73rd-minute equaliser. Indeed, Pochettino feels that was the moment the dream died.
“It was key that game against West Bromwich, not Chelsea or Newcastle
after,” said the manager. “How we played after 45 minutes, if you have time to see the first half you can realise how [well] the team played. After 45 minutes we created many chances and if we finished after the first half 4-0 or 5-0, that is normal.
“That is what we need to improve - to be more clinical when we create more chances, and then in the second half we have control.
“But in one action, a set piece, we conceded the goal and it was 1-1 and it killed 80 or 90 per cent of the possibility to be champions or fight until the end with Leicester - and then Chelsea was another history.
“It was tough but we were much better than West Bromwich, but that was in the
past. Now we are in the present and it will be very tough. In the same way as Manchester City, all the games in the Premier League are very difficult.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs