LET­TING UP

Po­chet­tino ea­ger to tighten screw on Chelsea

New Straits Times - - Sport - MAURI­CIO PO­CHET­TINO

LON­DON

TOT­TEN­HAM Hot­spur man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino is rel­ish­ing the op­por­tu­nity to load more pres­sure upon Premier League lead­ers Chelsea fol­low­ing his side’s su­perb derby win over Arse­nal.

Chelsea took a step closer to the ti­tle by win­ning at Ever­ton on Sun­day, but Spurs are still snap­ping at their heels, their daz­zling 2-0 de­feat of Arse­nal leav­ing them four points off the pace.

Spurs can close the gap to a slen­der point if they win at West Ham United on Fri­day, which would leave Chelsea to stew for three days be­fore their home game with Mid­dles­brough on Mon­day.

“We are in the race for the ti­tle,” Po­chet­tino told re­porters at White Hart Lane.

“We re­duce again the gap with Chelsea and that for us is the fo­cus now be­cause we have another im­por­tant game ahead on Fri­day against West Ham.”

Asked if vic­tory at West Ham would rep­re­sent a psy­cho­log­i­cal blow in the ti­tle race, Po­chet­tino replied: “It will be. We’ll see af­ter.

“We will have the chance to play be­fore them and if we are ca­pa­ble to win against West Ham, which will be another tough derby game, then we’ll see what hap­pens with them against Mid­dles­brough.”

Spurs’ win was a fit­ting way for the team to bow out in the fi­nal north Lon­don derby at White Hart Lane, which will be de­mol­ished to make way for their new 61,000-seater sta­dium.

Dele Alli broke the dead­lock in the 55th minute, slid­ing home the re­bound af­ter Petr Cech had saved from Chris­tian Erik­sen, with Harry Kane adding a nerve­less penalty three min­utes later.

Had it not been for the ac­ro­bat­ics of Arse­nal goal­keeper Cech, the home side might have won by a land­slide.

It was Spurs’ ninth straight vic­tory, their 13th suc­ces­sive home win and en­sured they will fin­ish the sea­son look­ing down on Arse­nal in the stand­ings for the first time since 1995.

Po­chet­tino said his play­ers had not watched Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Ever­ton ear­lier on Sun­day.

While he ad­mit­ted to per­sonal dis­ap­point­ment over Spurs’ fail­ure to eat into Chelsea’s lead more sig­nif­i­cantly, he said noth­ing could take the sheen off his team’s per­for­mance.

“Dis­ap­pointed about Chelsea?

We will have the chance to play be­fore them and if we are ca­pa­ble to win against West Ham, which will be another tough derby game, then we’ll see what hap­pens with them against Mid­dles­brough.

Af­ter 2-0 here against Arse­nal? Do you be­lieve we’re dis­ap­pointed?” he asked with a smile.

“Of course I am dis­ap­pointed, be­cause it was a great op­por­tu­nity to re­duce the gap.

“We are four (points be­hind), there are four games to play. All is pos­si­ble in foot­ball. We’ll see what hap­pens next week.

“Now it’s a mo­ment to feel proud, happy, be­cause the last derby against Arse­nal (at White Hart Lane), all that it means for our fans, for ev­ery­one that loves Tot­ten­ham, it was a fan­tas­tic af­ter­noon.” AFP lose the game to­day.

“We have to play more and cre­ate more than we did to­day.”

Dele Alli put Spurs ahead af­ter 55 min­utes be­fore Harry Kane was fouled in the area soon af­ter and con­verted the penalty.

Wenger felt the first goal and the spot-kick were soft.

“Spurs were sharper than us phys­i­cally and we were too re­stricted in our game. At the mo­ment, we are not back to the level of con­fi­dence we need to play in the way we can.

“The de­sire was there but we lacked some­thing to­day.”

Like his coun­ter­part Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino, Wenger was also keen to em­pha­sise that there are more im­por­tant as­pects to a sea­son than fin­ish­ing above your great­est ri­vals.

Sun­day’s win means Spurs are guar­an­teed to fin­ish above bit­ter ri­vals Arse­nal for the first time since 1995.

“Well done to them, but when you start the cham­pi­onship the tar­get is not to fin­ish above Spurs, it is to fight for the ti­tle,” said the French­man.

“In 20 years it hap­pened once. Math­e­mat­i­cally it has to hap­pen once. We’re not happy with it but we don’t com­pare our­selves to Spurs, we com­pare our­selves to where we want to be.”

At the mo­ment, Arse­nal are some way off that. Reuters

REUTERS PIC

Tot­ten­ham's Harry Kane cel­e­brates scor­ing the sec­ond goal against Arse­nal with Dele Alli on Sun­day. Tot­ten­ham won 2-0.

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