Vertonghen: Tottenham have winning mentality under Pochettino
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Defender pays tribute to boss after beating Burnley
Jan Vertonghen says Mauricio Pochettino has installed a winning mentality at Tottenham which was evident again in Saturday’s victory at Burnley.
Spurs visited a Clarets side who had won nine of their previous 14 home games and held Chelsea to a draw at Turf Moor last month.
The Lilywhites were also without Harry Kane and Danny Rose, while Kyle Walker, Mousa Dembele and Heung-Min Son were named on the bench – and they then lost both of their central midfielders, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks, to injury before half time.
However, a switch from a 3-4-2-1 formation to a 4-2-3-1 system paid off, and Eric Dier and substitute Son struck in the second period to secure a 2-0 triumph.
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“The gaffer put a winning mentality in the team and you saw this again,” said Vertonghen.
“Before, we might have been happy to take the draw because it’s a very tough place to come. But this team kept on pushing for the winner and we deserved it.
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“For me it was one of the most professional games on our side of the whole season. It is a very tough place to come - we knew this.
“Obviously we weren’t scared but we were well prepared and if you come away with three points, especially with the way we played in the second half, we can be very proud of ourselves.
“Through the years working with this manager, we’ve got something there now. You can go to Burnley, you can be tight or whatever and for us those automatic things, they’re in the team and you saw this again.
“With the high line, we’re protecting each other from the back. We can press, we find a spare man in midfield, especially in the second half. That’s the result of working very hard. We’ve got no excuses any more.”
Vertonghen went on: “We changed the system and we played with four at the back. You don’t have to be a great tactician to know what that means. Obviously the full-backs need to stay more inside and protect me and Toby [Alderweireld], especially with their tall guys up front and they did that.
“Then it’s down to other guys like Sonny, Christian [Eriksen] and Dele [Alli] to help us move forward a bit more, and it was a perfect plan in my opinion.
“It helps that we have players that can play in different positions, especially Eric [Dier], who played in midfield for England during the week and did the same again for us [on Saturday].
“For me, he was one of the best players on the pitch with the other midfielders - they were very good. It helped us because we lost two defensive midfielders and it would have been very hard for Mousa [Dembele] to do it all by himself.
“We have big players that can come on. If you have Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissoko to come on, you have a very strong bench.
“It’s the same with guys like Tripps (Kieran Trippier) and Sonny, who came on and [scored]. We just have a big squad and that’s very important, especially near the end of the season.”
Tottenham’s victory on Saturday took them within seven points of league leaders Chelsea, who slipped up after losing 2-1 at home against Crystal Palace.
Spurs will now hope to get another opportunity to close the gap on Wednesday. They travel to Swansea, while Chelsea face a big test against fourth-placed Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s better for us that they’re losing than winning,” said Vertonghen. “Seven points is still a lot and they still look strong but we’ll keep putting pressure on.
“We feel very confident, we feel very strong. We have to keep winning our games. Chelsea play City in midweek and anything can happen.
“Those [head to heads] are the best games for us. Soon, it’s City playing Man United as well and we can relax and enjoy the result whatever happens.”