Mauricio Pochettino is ready to make changes to his Tottenham Hotspur team tonight, even if it is cup quarter-final against Newcastle United.
Spurs’ head coach has rotated his players all season, between three competitions, and will continue to do so this evening. Last season Pochettino made changes for Southampton’s Capital One Cup defeat at Sunderland, and took criticism for it. Speaking at his pre-game press conference yesterday, though, Pochettino fiercely defended his right to pick the team as he sees fit.
“For tomorrow, maybe one player is tired and not fresh,” Pochettino said, “and if another team-mate is in better condition then why not?”
There is no way of ensuring progress to the semi-finals, Pochettino argued, so it was his job to take this sort of difficult decision. “I am a manager and I need to make a decision,” Pochettino said. “You cannot pick a team to guarantee that we go to the semi-final.”
“In football it is easy to talk after the game. But the important thing is taking the decision before. When you are the coach, if you win, you are the best and if you don’t, you are shit.”
Last November, Southampton were knocked out of the League Cup after Pochettino made 10 changes, but Pochettino bristled at the suggestion that he had taken the game lightly when asked about it yesterday.
“For me, it was a lack of respect for my players,” Pochettino said. “I always defend my players. If we have players on the squad, it is because we believe in them. If not, why are the players in the squad? This is because we lost, but we deserved to win, away at Sunderland, because we created a lot of chances.” When asked whether he could make as many changes with Spurs tonight, he said “maybe” and pointed to the fact that Spurs have played 26 games in all competitions so far this season. “We have players who have played a lot of games in the last few days,” Pochettino said, “maybe they are tired.” When asked which players he was referring to, Pochettino said he “did not want to give information to Alan Pardew”.
Pochettino does have the luxury of a fully-fit squad to choose from, with the exception of Emmanuel Adebayor who only returned to training from compassionate leave on Monday. This is a rare occurrence at any Premier League club and is testament to the training and conditioning work of Pochettino and Jesus Perez – whom Pochettino described as his “right hand” – since they arrived in the summer.
One of their successes in that sense has been Ryan Mason, whose career had been blighted by injury before this season, but he is now a regular in the Premier League. “In the beginning of the pre-season, when we arrived it was difficult for him to run,” Pochettino said yesterday. “One training session, then another training session rest, it was difficult to keep the level. We designed an individual programme to help him, to improve his quality and condition.”Reuse content