Mauricio Pochettino striving for perfection as Project Tottenham goes from strength to strength

Yet another win has Tottenham, for a second season running, the sole challenger to the league leaders with Pochettino striving for even more from his in-form team

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The Independent Football

The whistle went and Mauricio Pochettino stormed down the tunnel, demonstrably angry with what he’d just seen. His fury was clear for all inside White Hart Lane to see, as it had been for much of the first-half, stalking around his technical area and remonstrating with his staff back and forth on the bench throughout. Tottenham were 2-0 up and cruising to what would become a 12th consecutive win on their own patch. Not that you would know it from watching the man who has made it all happen. Pochettino is a perfectionist for whom nothing is ever enough.

“I was happy,” the Argentine insisted afterwards. “But if you remember in one of the last moments of the first half we nearly conceded a goal, and that makes 2-0 2-1, and it is a big problem for the second half because you have given belief to the opponent. That is why, because from the touchline if you can help the team to translate the idea that we must always be alive, that is important.”

That, in essence, is Pochettino. Always alive, always at it, always focused on the bigger picture. “I am a very relaxed, calm person,” he says. “It’s not difficult for it to be exciting for me. I am emotional during the game, but I try. I am how I am.”

It’s that attitude that has guided Tottenham right on to the coattails of Chelsea and a title race that seemed all but over just a matter of weeks ago is now anything but. Spurs are rampant, playing the best football in the Premier League and are, for the second season running, the sole challenger keeping the league leaders honest down the home stretch.

“To be there is important for Tottenham, looking only at us, it is a big improvement, for the second season to be there and be the team that is fighting for the title is a big credit to the players, the club and to the fans, everybody, because when you are competing with big sides like [Manchester] United, [Manchester] City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea I think for Tottenham it is a big achievement again to be the second team today in the table.”

This has been an organic process for Pochettino and his club, working their way up from top four outsiders to title chasers over the last two and a half years with a combination of hard work, dedication, shrewd recruitment and even better management. Pochettino is proud of what they have achieved together and believes, unshakeably, that this is very much the beginning.

“If you analyse where we came from, it’s a fantastic time for Tottenham. And how you build your project is important to analyse,” he adds. “Tottenham is not building now in an artificial way. It is not about putting in money, money, money, money and build a fantastic stadium and a fantastic team. Tottenham is very genuine, and it is a very natural process, and it is so exciting because it is unique in the world.”

Pochettino is never satisfied, even with his side on a terrific run of form (Getty)

Pochettino’s side face title rivals Chelsea in the first FA Cup semi-final next weekend almost a year removed from the infamous ‘Battle of the Bridge’ that saw Tottenham’s title dreams evaporate so dramatically. So, is revenge on the menu at Wembley? Pochettino doesn’t work that way.

“In football when you are competitive you want to win. And for me my feeling is – I started to play football when I was very young – I played for my pride. I didn’t play for revenge or for money. I played for nothing more than pride. And that is how we need to feel. Last season they played to win, we played to win. If we lost, if we were not able to fight for the league, it was because of us and not because of Chelsea or a different opponent.”

“I am so happy that we are second in the table, and we are very ambitious,” he adds. “But we have work to do and we will see what happens.”

For Pochettino, Project Tottenham has only just begun.