Spurs hero Danny Rose reveals his title chat with Erik Lamela over dinner
Tottenham’s matchwinner Danny Rose discusses the club’s title chances, their “never-say-die attitude” under Mauricio Pochettino and the important impact of Spurs’ substitutes and full-backs.
Tottenham’s players have been steadfastly evasive when asked about their growing title chances.
Mauricio Pochettino announced at the start of February that “it is better to show than to speak” and, as with all things, his players have taken his message to heart and shown unity by repeatedly stressing the need to focus on one game at a time.
Danny Rose was also anxious to avoid looking too far ahead on Sunday afternoon. But, after scoring the winning goal in the thrilling 2-1 victory over Swansea - which took Spurs back to within two points of leaders Leicester City and three ahead of Arsenal - he happily exposed his team-mate Erik Lamela as a firm believer in Tottenham’s title dream.
The left-back said: “I’d like to believe we can but I don’t want to think that… Before the Man City game I was having dinner with Lamela and I was still asking him if he reckoned we can finish in the top four.
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“I’ve never seen someone look at me with such disgust. He said ‘My friend, we can win the league’.
“I realise the position we’re in but I don’t want to get too carried away. Games like the one Leicester had on Saturday, scoring in the last minute [to beat Norwich], you never know, it could be a pivotal moment for them. Come the end of the season I hope me scoring can be a pivotal moment for Tottenham.”
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Could that strike prove to be the most important of Rose’s eight goals for Spurs? Bigger, even, that that legendary volley against Arsenal in 2010, which helped the Lilywhites to qualify for the Champions League for the first time?
“Possibly… I’ll be able to tell you more at the end of the season,” said the 25-year-old. “I hope it’s a vital goal and we’ll know at the end of the season how vital it was.
“I haven’t seen a goalkeeping performance like Fab’s [Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski’s] in my whole career. We showed great attitude and we didn’t go under.”
That was the key. There seemed to be an element of déjà vu around White Hart Lane on Sunday. After a triumphant European night on Thursday, there was a certain inevitability about the first half that followed three days later as Spurs squandered numerous opportunities – largely thanks to Fabianski’s heroics – and went into the interval 1-0 down.
In previous years they would have lost and the headlines would have focused, once again, on the damaging effects of the Europa League on their Premier League campaigns, and their history of fading away in the final third of the season.
However, things are different this time and Tottenham’s comeback provided further evidence that they really could be crowned the best team in the country in May.
So is this the best Spurs side Rose has played in?
“I’ve thought about this a lot,” he said. “I’m not sure. It’s probably the best togetherness I’ve had and that’s probably more important than actual ability.
“We never give up for one another, we’re willing to run to the end for one another and we’ve shown that again - but I’m not sure whether it’s the best one since I’ve been here.”
Tottenham’s spirit is underlined by the fact that they have now earned 17 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season.
“It’s not a statistic you want, going behind and having to fight to come back, but it’s still a great statistic to have nevertheless,” said Rose. “It shows the great character the manager has instilled through the club, from top to bottom.
“A lot of credit has to go to him and his staff. We all feel very privileged to be here working under him. We’ve got a great team around and it literally is a never-say-die attitude.
“I’ve spoken about it with the manager - last season teams didn’t really respect us [at the Lane]. They came here thinking they would get a few chances, playing with two strikers and trying to score as many as possible, but it’s different this season.
“Opponents know we’re a much better team and it’s credit to us. It’s very difficult once a team get into position, trying to break them down. Luckily we’ve managed to do that in the majority of games this season and hopefully we can keep going until the end.”
Rose continued: “Under Harry [Redknapp], nine times out of 10 we played with two strikers so I reckon it was a bit easier than it is now. We play with a lot of midfielders and only Harry [Kane] as the main striker, so it’s harder for Harry when teams come here.
“Our pitch isn’t the biggest so it’s harder to go in behind, but we’ve got great quality throughout the squad. It’s our problem to work out how to break teams down and, for the majority of games this season, we’ve done that.
“We’ve not spoken about [the size of the pitch], but for instance the goal we scored at Arsenal, where Harry got in behind, it’s more difficult to do it here with the pitch being a bit smaller. But it’s never been an excuse, I’m just saying. The gaffer, nor anyone else, has ever mentioned that.”
One of the keys to Tottenham’s recent form has been the impact of their substitutes. Pochettino has previously been criticised for a failure, or inability, to change games – either with his tactics or his changes off the bench.
However, Nacer Chadli scored the crucial equaliser less than 10 minutes after entering the fray on Sunday, and that has become something of a theme.
Earlier in February, Dele Alli came on to set up the winning goal against Watford, and when Lamela was introduced at Manchester City he promptly created Christian Eriksen’s winning strike. Rose can pinpoint a watershed moment in that respect.
“After the Newcastle game [when the Magpies won 2-1 at White Hart Lane in December] their two subs either scored or contributed to the goals,” said the defender.
“Hugo [Lloris] said when our subs come on, they have to be ready to either chase the man down or try to win us a goal.
“The first example of that, for me, was Palace away. Nacer came on and we ended up winning 3-1, albeit from a world-class goal from Dele.
“This time he came on again and he managed to help contribute to us getting three points. If you’re not playing you have to be ready to step in at any moment, and thankfully everyone has done that.”
Tottenham’s full-backs have also been making valuable contributions in the final third: Kieran Trippier has scored one goal and set up another two in the last month; Ben Davies won the penalty against Fiorentina in the first leg in Italy; and, on Sunday, Kyle Walker set up Chadli’s leveller before Rose struck the winner.
“It’s great competition,” said Rose. “As I’ve said, I’m thankful Ben is here because he’s helped me improve and I hope I’ve helped him improve.
“Whenever he plays, I see it as a chance to learn from him. I watch him and he makes the underlapping runs so well, the timing of his runs, and it’s something I need to improve in my game.
“I’m sure Kyle will be thankful Kieran is here because Kieran is having a great first season - he’s managed to chip in with a couple of assists. I’m over the moon for everyone.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs