Mauricio Pochettino feels that Tottenham Hotspur deserve more credit for competing at the top end of the Premier League with “different tools” to their top-four rivals.
The Spurs manager’s irritation at Liverpool was not confined to a poor performance from his team as their 11-game unbeaten run was shattered by two goals from Sadio Mané. Pochettino tried to sign the Senegal international from Southampton last summer only for Tottenham – who have a net spend of just £1m over the past five years as they construct a new stadium – to lose out to Liverpool. Spurs remain second in the table before Manchester City’s trip to Bournemouth on Monday and their manager believes their overall performance warrants greater recognition.
Pochettino said: “We are fighting. If you compare Tottenham with the other sides competing for the top four, maybe you should say: ‘Wow, Tottenham deserve a lot of credit for where they are now.’ We are building the project over the last two years. The club is in a special situation, building the new stadium and there are many things which are important when you analyse the team.
“We are in a different project to Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal. We are a club fighting for the Premier League with different tools in a different project. We will see if we can cope. If we have the squad, we will see. It is important that our project is long-term and we can see if we can cope with all the competitions now.”
Eric Dier, who endured a fraught evening at Anfield, admitted Spurs’ development into genuine title challengers is far from complete. “I think we still need to improve in all areas,” said the England international. “We have never not said that. We still have a long way to go and we need to keep improving and working hard. There is lots of stuff we can still improve on. We can’t just talk about it, we need to do it.”
That sentiment was echoed by Pochettino, who accepted Spurs lack the experience and winning mentality of the league leaders, Chelsea. “We can’t compare with another team,” he added. “Chelsea have a lot of players that know what it means to win and we are creating a winning mentality. After 11 games [unbeaten], something happened. Liverpool have struggled since the beginning of the year but have a lot of good players. They know what it means to win too. I am disappointed but feel calm.”
Mané’s agent, Bjorn Bezemer, told the Guardian that wages had not been the reason his client chose to join Liverpool. “Sadio had five offers in the summer and financially all of them were good,” he said. “We wanted the right team, with the right coach at the right moment to arrive at the next level. That is the reason Sadio went to Anfield.”