Spurs boss urges his players to earn their new contracts and show passion after Champions League defeat
Mauricio Pochettino says his Tottenham players need to earn their contract extensions and has expressed his disappointment at a lack of passion in the first half of Wednesday’s Champions League defeat to Monaco.
Twenty-year-old midfielder Harry Winks has followed the senior duo of Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier by signing a new deal today, extending his stay at White Hart Lane until 2021 – and more first-team stars are expected to put pen to paper in the coming weeks.
Pochettino is pleased to see his players being rewarded with improved long-term contracts after the club’s progress – but he was unhappy with what he saw in the first half of this week’s 2-1 loss to Monaco at Wembley, following a long wait for Spurs’ return to the Champions League.
“I need to say that the club has made a big effort to try to keep all our talent,” said the manager. “I think it’s fantastic for the club and my feeling is we need to do more because the club gives us a lot of very good things.
“We need to show more as a team – more passion, more desire. The club is working very well in this aspect and it’s always good to hear young players have extended their contracts and shown their commitment to the club.
“For me, after the first half, we had a lack of passion, a lack of aggression, a lack of desire to play in the Champions League.
“One thing is true – we waited six years to play again in the Champions League at this club, and it was always our dream.
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“I remember when I signed my contract on May 27 2014, always the dream was to play in the Champions League. Then when you get that, and after the first half… I think we’re all agreed, the same with the players - we need to find why. I think we’ll find why and now we need to fix that. We have time to fix it.
“In the second half we showed a lot of passion and we played very well. [Monaco] didn’t shoot, they had zero corners and I was happy with our performance. Only in this 45-minute period, we didn’t show passion. Why? This is my big question, and not only me. We all have in our minds, why?”
Pochettino continued: “If you give [Monaco] the presents we gave them, it’s impossible to come back again and get a result. There’s no excuse – the problem wasn’t Wembley or the pitch. We were the problem and we need to be very critical with ourselves.
“I look at myself too. Maybe I didn’t know how to get the motivation [across] to play on Wednesday night in the Champions League. Maybe I put myself in question too. We share responsibility but we cannot repeat it. You can lose, not play well but never concede two goals how we conceded. It was a collective problem, not an individual problem. I was the first guilty one in this situation.
“When we wait six years, many times, to play in the Champions League, after 45 minutes you can’t go to the changing room with this feeling. We had 90,000 people in front of us, waiting for us to play in the Champions League. The atmosphere was amazing. We nearly cried before, when you hear the song from the Champions League, it’s a dream come true. That was difficult.
“We have time to win games, we have the possibility to go to the next round. It’s early days. It’s early in the season but we need to compete much, much better.”
Pochettino admits he was not particularly content with Tottenham’s 4-0 victory at Stoke on Saturday, because he felt his side started slowly again and could easily have fallen behind before Heung-Min Son’s 41st-minute opener.
“I remember the first half was the same as against Monaco,” he said. “In the first actions they (Stoke) had the facility to score, and then because we scored late in the first half and again in the second half we won 4-0. But my feeling did not change from the result. It’s not that I’m happy because it’s 4-0. We need to be clever and analyse the circumstance of the game.
“Sometimes you have luck, sometimes not. Maybe if Stoke had scored in the first few minutes, maybe the result would have been different – and against Monaco, the first chance, they scored. The second chance they scored. We allowed them to score and then it was difficult and we lost the game.
“I’m not a fan, I’m a professional about football. I need to analyse it in a different way, that is a massive difference.”
Pochettino admits he is likely to rotate his squad for Sunday’s Premier League home game against Sunderland – to freshen up his team rather than to punish any individual performances following Spurs’ loss at Wembley.
“It’ll be a tough game. It’s the Premier League, it demands a lot of energy like the Champions League,” said Pochettino. “It’s the same level and we need to be ready
“It’s true that after Wednesday I am thinking about rotating the team a bit, the starting XI. We’ll see what happens tomorrow when we assess all the players and take the best decision for the team.
“It was collective [on Wednesday] and it’s not focusing on some players. All season it’s difficult to play and when you play in the Champions League you expend a lot of energy. Maybe that, for us, is new - to handle playing Wednesday and Saturday or Sunday.
“In the last two seasons we always rotated the squad a lot when we played in the middle of the week in the Europa League. It is a new experience for us to learn and try to get a good result.”
Left-back Danny Rose is still absent with a hamstring injury, but Pochettino said: “If all is going like so far I think maybe one week more and he will be available to be selected. Now it is about the feeling every day.”
The Spurs boss has also hinted that he could give summer signing Georges-Kevin Nkoudou his debut in Wednesday’s League Cup tie against Gillingham.
“We’ll see,” he said. “He needs to work more. I think maybe he will be ready to be selected next week - maybe but not sure.
“It’s going well. He’s very young, he speaks only French, it’s a big problem for him. He is learning quick but he is still settling into the team.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs