Spurs boss Pochettino: Increased coverage and scrutiny has forced players to be more controlled
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Mauricio Pochettino feels developments in football coverage – notably the increased number of cameras – have sanitised the game, watered down the fiercest rivalries and forced players to be more controlled as Tottenham prepare to visit Chelsea.
Spurs certainly lacked control in their last game at Stamford Bridge, which featured two mass brawls as the Blues came back from 2-0 down to end the Lilywhites’ title bid – and there were punishments.
Nine Tottenham players were booked and Mousa Dembele was banned for six matches after video footage showed him scratching the eye of Diego Costa.
That incident seemed to be foremost in Pochettino’s mind as he mused about changes in the game since his days as a player, and how they reflect the level of scrutiny that is now being experienced by society in general.
“I was talking with Eric Dier in my office about how different football was 20 years ago when I was a player,” said the manager. “I used to watch the ball and also watch the opponent because maybe you can receive a punch or a kick. But there weren’t too many cameras then to get suspended, like now. “It was difficult to play. It’s true we have to show an example in football, but life now is about what you’re doing with your phone, on the internet. You’re not always free, you’re in a box, and football is the same.
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“I felt more freedom at that moment and there wasn’t so much consequence. Today every action you are in the spotlight. It’s too difficult now to show your real emotion and you need to have more control and it’s more difficult.
“Before you could make a lot of mistakes as a player because it wasn’t the culture we have today.
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“It’s not a shame, its life today. It’s a different era and we need accept that and control everything. You cannot behave with freedom in your house because maybe someone can hack your camera and look at what you’re doing. It’s very difficult.
“We’re all in the same era and we share the same age and before we could feel more freedom - but today there’s too much control everywhere. Then appears psychological problems in our kids and it’s difficult.”
Tottenham’s last clash with Chelsea seemed to intensify the rivalry between the clubs, and Danny Rose has admitted that the first fixture he looked for when the schedule was announced in the summer was the first clash with Antonio Conte’s Blues.
Asked if the enmity between the London clubs could replicate the hostility between Manchester United and Arsenal around 2004, when Sir Alex Ferguson was hit with a flying pizza in the tunnel, Pochettino replied: “It’s more friendly now than then. I don’t know, maybe one day it could arrive.
“It’s true that it’s more difficult. I remember - the TV program was repeated - the problem in the tunnel with Roy Keane and [Patrick] Vieira. Today you would get suspended. For that, football was completely different 10 years ago.”
There was tension even before Tottenham’s trip to Stamford Bridge in May, with Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard both voicing their hope that Spurs’ rivals Leicester City would win the league, and the clash was ill-tempered from the start.
The nine bookings the Lilywhites received was a club record, and Pochettino found himself in the thick of the action after venturing out of his technical area to break up a scuffle.
“In that moment I wanted to stop the fight between Danny Rose and Willian,” he said. “I made a mistake, yes, because I cannot go in the pitch. At that moment I was involved in the game.
“For different reasons we arrived at that moment, at that game, in a very sensitive moment. We were very aggressive in all that was happening. We wanted to win that game, although maybe it would not have changed what happened with the title.
“In the second half we conceded the first goal, the second goal. In that moment you get frustrated, disappointed, and maybe you pay by kicking someone - you lose your cool. But I think the Chelsea players can understand. All players understand too.
“We are in a different moment now. I wish, I hope, that’s what happens on the pitch - we play football, and if we deserve to win then we win, and if we don’t, ok, that’s football.
“It was a special moment, very special. Out of context, we can say ‘why did Tottenham behave like this?’ but with all the context, in that moment, I think it was normal.”
Pochettino is keen to stress that Tottenham hold no grudges about Chelsea’s determination to stop their title bid in May.
“We always praise the Premier League because the teams playing for the top, or playing for the bottom, or playing for nothing, are always honest, trying to win the games,” he said.
“In other leagues, sometimes you have some doubt, and when you value that, it is always being honest with the competition.
“Also we didn’t lose the possibility to lose the league against Chelsea, I think it was before - West Brom, or from before, or at the beginning of the season when we conceded a lot of draws. We cannot blame the game against one team.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs