Tottenham’s most emphatic win yet in the young Premier League season prompted Mauricio Pochettino to reflect upon the lingering effects of last season’s late slump.
The 4-0 win at Stoke City was the exact same scoreline as Tottenham’s last visit to the Potteries in April. That match featured Tottenham at the peak of its power, seemingly capable of stealing the Premier League title away from eventual winners Leicester City.
Unfortunately for Tottenham, what followed that Stoke match was only disappointment. Tottenham earned two points from their final four games to not only lose their grip on the title race, but also slip behind rivals Arsenal in the table. They would finish third, eleven points from the title.
Some cited that late season collapse as a root cause of Tottenham’s unsteady form to start this current season. Though they remained undefeated in their opening three matches of the campaign, their performances were less than convincing. It didn’t feel like the results would hold if Tottenham didn’t improve and improve fast.
And so it is that the Stoke City win symbolizes in its own way not only a return to form but also a break with the last season’s disappointments.
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“I think that after four games unbeaten you can see that the players are thinking about the new season, the new challenge,” Pochettino said after Saturday’s match.
“We forget the past. We worked hard to forget last season and focus on the present. After four games we are unbeaten and you can see that the team has recovered.
“We need to improve now. Preseason was tough. Now we need to work hard, improve and stay together.”
Pochettino’s comments come just after the club successfully signed Christian Eriksen to a new deal that will keep the playmaker at the club until 2020. With new deals also on the table for Harry Kane, Érik Lamela and several other first team regulars, the club is anxious to encourage togetherness and teamwork. Spurs might not pay the highest wages, but there are more important things in football than money.
What was lost in a lot of the criticism of last season’s failed title challenge and in this season’s slow start is the fact that Pochettino’s project is still very much under construction. The pieces are all in place — evidenced by Tottenham not signing any clear starters over the summer — but the Argentine’s methods and madness is something that will still take years to properly instill.
Last season’s third place finish was much more than anyone expected. With Tottenham’s bar raised, suddenly the pressure to perform in both the Premier League and Champions League this season can feel unreasonable. Results like Saturday’s, though, go some way into making it seem like improvement is still possible over the next year.