Pochettino says Spurs must invest to compete with the best
Tottenham manager looking forward to semi-final showdown with Chelsea
Mauricio Pochettino: “We’re doing a fantastic job but if we want to be real contenders, we need to operate in a different way in the future.” Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters
Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham must “operate in a different way” if they are to win the game’s biggest prizes, as he reflected on the club’s low net spend on transfers during his tenure and made it plain that he does not expect to make any signings this month.
Pochettino is preparing for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final, first-leg against Chelsea at Wembley and, unsurprisingly, it led to a discussion about his trophy-winning ambitions. He has yet to claim any silverware during his managerial career.
Pochettino spoke at length about the goals of the project that he signed up for at Tottenham in the summer of 2014, which were to close the gap on the Premier League’s top four and create a team – on a relative shoestring because of the club’s new stadium build – that could compete with them. By any reckoning, he is ahead of schedule.
But as Pochettino has always said, the next step – the one to the biggest trophies – is the most difficult and, according to him, it will require a change of emphasis in terms of spending. Pochettino’s net spend on permanent transfer fees at Spurs is €44.8 million.
“I saw a stat the other day about how teams were spending money in the last 10 years and we were on the bottom in England and Europe,” Pochettino said. “We’re doing a fantastic job but if we want to be real contenders, we need to operate in a different way in the future.
“At the moment, it’s fantastic – so far so good – but we’ll see if it’s enough to challenge and be consistent in the next five years operating in that way; if we’re capable to fight with the big sides in the same way that we’ve fought in the last four or five years.
Pochettino confirmed that the club would listen to offers for Mousa Dembele, who is out of contract at the end of the season and wants a move to China.
“If something arrives, we are going to listen and then it’s what we want to do or the player wants to do – it’s about negotiating, like always in that business,” he said.
Pochettino was not optimistic on the subject of incoming January business. “We know very well the summer is always difficult but winter is worse,” he said. “Sure for us, it’s going to be difficult to add players. I don’t expect to add players but if we have the opportunity to add the right players, we are going to try. We are always open in trying to improve the squad.”
Pochettino has been involved in a series of classic games with Chelsea during his time at Spurs and, when asked to name his favourite, he chose the notorious ‘Battle of the Bridge’ from May 2016, when a 2-2 draw ended his team’s title challenge. It was a game shaped by nastiness and yellow cards, which Pochettino loved. He feels that his team need to show more of that edge.
“We are a team everyone likes to watch over the last three or four years but we need to be a little bit naughty, smart in how we compete, and we still miss that,” Pochettino said. “Football is about being a little bit smart and naughty. It’s a mix in between the two.
“If you want to win titles and be consistent, you do not only need to play well with quality. Being competitive is about being tough in some games. We have the opportunity now against Chelsea and in the next few months to show we’re capable of being more competitive than we were.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea coach, Maurizio Sarri, has said young prospect Callum Hudson-Odoi is ready for the Premier League and should reject the chance to join Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich are keen to sign the 18-year-old winger, and have already had two bids rejected in this transfer window.
Hudson-Odoi has found game time at Stamford Bridge limited this season but Sarri has followed his assistant coach, Gianfranco Zola, in insisting that the academy graduate should stay with the club and believes that he is now ready to make his mark on the Chelsea first team.
Hudson-Odoi has not entered contract negotiations at Chelsea despite overtures from the club and his current deal expires in 18 months’ time, in June 2020.
“I don’t think a move to Germany would be good for him,” Sarri said.
“He is an English player, he is very young, and I think he has a very good future here; with the England team and with Chelsea. I think he is a very important player. He is ready for the Premier League, I think.
“Of course we have very important players in the same position and I can play with only two wingers. Three is difficult. But he is ready. Of course some times he will be on the bench but I think I can start to consider him on the same level as Willian and Pedro.”
In November Sarri was less certain. Speaking after the teenager had scored against PAOK in the Europa League, he said he did not know if Hudson-Odoi was ready to play in league matches “especially for a big team”.
But in advance of the big first-leg derby clash with Tottenham, the Italian coach said Hudson-Odoi has improved significantly in the last month, particularly in his defensive work.
“I know only that, for me, he is a very important player”, Sarri said.
“He’s very young but he’s improving. He’s improving especially in defensive phase. He played very well in the last match [in the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest]. He was in trouble in the match against Watford, but only because of the problem with his hamstring. I am very pleased with him and I think he is an important player.”
Bayern are keen to sign Hudson-Odoi, who won the Under-17 World Cup with England in 2017, with their latest bid worth €34 million plus add-ons.