El Pochettino’s musings at the latest presser ahead of the Carabao Cup clash with Watford tomorrow courtesy of Alasdair Gold.
How do you feel about playing at the Stadium MK?
I feel well, because we’re going to discover another place to play. It’s a very nice town. Four years ago I saw Dele Alli as a 16 or 17 year-old playing against Manchester United – Many very good memories. I think it’s a beautiful town with an amazing stadium. The option to play there is the only option we had. We’re going to try to enjoy the game and the afternoon of course.Alli pushing for it
Dele seemed to be pushing the idea to play there?
One thing is he told you it’s a good idea, another thing is him pushing. No player is going to push the club to make a decision. He’s happy to play in his home town. But in the decision, Dele Alli wasn’t responsible.
Did he say anything to you?
He’s happy, he’s so excited of course. He’s the King of Milton Keynes.
What do you make of fans who might be refusing to travel there?
I think our fans feel very disappointed, like all of us. Our chairman feels disappointed because it was a game to play in our stadium. It’s not under our control. Of course, I understand the fans who are so disappointed but so are the staff, the players, everyone who works for the club. The first is the chairman who cannot deliver the new stadium on time. I understand completely the fans are not happy but no-one is happy and we need to adapt ourselves in that circumstance. If we only complain, find excuses, it’s difficult for the club and team to move on, it’s difficult to be strong. If not, the human being is always to find excuses if you don’t win. For me, it’s the opposite – to try to be strong. All that situation is to make us stronger than before and use that for the future, have the capacity to adapt. I want to be positive, I am positive because I am an optimistic person. I’m not going to blame or complain. We’re playing Watford at Milton Keynes. It’s a great opportunity for discovery and to be strong in our mind. We’re away from home for a second consecutive period.
First of all we need to win. We respect Watford, they’re doing very well. It will be a tough game but if we win after the draw we’ll take the decision if we need to play at home and it’s not possible to play at Wembley or our new stadium, I’m more than happy to play again at Milton Keynes.
They have cows in Milton Keynes…
I’m going to be so welcome because of my sympathy and respect for the cow. We were talking before the press conference about the concrete crows. They run about! For me, it’s a fantastic city. I have a few friends there and it’s so close to London – only 45 minutes. It’s a great town, beautiful. When I was there I enjoyed a lot.
Will you be giving game time to others?
From the beginning of season we have been making changes and making a lot of changes in the Premier League and different games. For me it’s a squad game and competition. In four years we have played one final and two semi-finals and that means we always take all the competitions very seriously and try to win. Like last year against Manchester United and the previous season against Chelsea and the final, in some circumstances against Chelsea too, it because you took it very seriously. For me the competitions are about the squad, Premier League, Champions League, League Cup or FA Cup and we have a strong squad, capable of everyone playing. The idea is we want to win tomorrow.
Will Paulo Gazzaniga still start tomorrow?
Nothng changed because Hugo and Michel are still injured. It means Paulo going to play and of course Alfie [Whiteman] and Brandon [Austin] in contention.
How far away are Michel Vorm and Hugo Lloris?
We’ll see after the next few days if they can arrive to be ready for Huddersfield, if not then Barcelona, if not Cardiff and if not after.
Could one of them be fit for the weekend?
Look, we cannot change, the process is the process. They need time to recover. We’ll see what happens in the next few days and sure at the next press conference before Huddersfield I will tell you properly if they will be ready to come back and compete.
You played Watford not longer ago, what can you take from that?
We were watching this game and another game in the Carabao Cup against Reading, where he rotated and changed the starting XI, completely different 11 players and using different systems against Reading. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, if he decides, the coach or manager, to have the same players playing or to play with the same starting XI or rotate and using different systems. We are aware of that and of course differing things that you can take from our game that we play at Watford. But sure it is going to be a completely different game and a different competition. We’ll see what the starting XI is.
Were you disappointed that Lloris or Kane were not in best team of the year?
Yes of course I can understand our fans, and for them sure might be disappointed but we’re not responsible for the vote and we don’t pick players who are going to be rewarded. Only I can say nothing because it’s not in our hands to give the awards to our players.
I presume you will make some changes?
Yes, like Inter Milan or Brighton, we changed five. It’s a squad game or competition like all. Of course sure five or six changes.
Do you think it devalues the competition?
Why? If you see how we lose the games in the previous season, you’re going to see that we lose always against big teams. Of course we want to win but if you say the same question to the manager of Watford, why he picked 11 different players against Reading, with the risk to lose, when they didn’t play European competition, and we are involved in the Champions League. We have a lot of games ahead. I think we rotate, trying to find the best solution to try to win games. But the obsession here in England is to try to disrespect the players who play in one or another competition, and for me it’s so difficult to understand.
Sorry, it’s nothing wrong with the question. But always it’s, if tomorrow Paulo Gazzaniga plays, the competition the FA Cup, or Serge Aurier, who played against Inter Milan but didn’t play against Brighton, it’s like we disrespect the competition or we don’t take it seriously. I think when Tottenham is going to play tomorrow, it’s going trying to win. When you sign players and you have 24 players in your squad, you need to respect all the players. If not, if they’re going to have the possibility to play and show their quality, why do you pay their salary, why do you provide the food every day at the training session and at the training ground? Sorry but for me it’s so difficult to understand, that obsession about why one or another plays. It’s like all the managers want to lose.
No-one wants to win, or like the competition in the Copa del Rey in Spain, if Real Madrid is going to play against someone and they used to rotate, it’s like Real Madrid don’t want to win. I think it’s crazy and the problems sometimes is not from you, because I understand you. But sometimes some people who play football and were professionals, their opinion is similar and it’s difficult to understand, because I was a professional player and now a manager, and you need to understand that to deal with 24 or 25 players is not easy. To give the possibility to play to all the players always is so important because they need to feel the confidence and trust. They need to challenge the players they believe are ahead of them. In the end for me it’s about the squad. It’s about being a team.
If you want to win some competitions you can win or lose with one or with another. Sometimes it’s more important when you win a trophy, the players that not play too much because they help to be better every day the players that play the most. I repeat again, I don’t understand the obsession with asking about the players that are going to play in one or another competition because when we are going to play tomorrow, or Saturday, or Wednesday, or I don’t know, always it’s Tottenham that’s going to play, and your honour. But of course I understand you and everyone need to find always some reason to talk, and in the end if we win, it’s fantastic to rotate and give rest. If you don’t [win] it’s because you don’t give rest and you kill the players and it’s normal. If you don’t play the players that don’t play too much it’s very disrespectful for the coach. Always with the medicine of Monday it’s easy to give opinions and of course. But that is my job, it’s in my contract and it’s my job to try to deal with everything.
There are no other injury concerns going into this game?
No, just Hugo and Michel.
Anyone you might leave out to give a rest, like Sarri did with Hazard in the Europa League?
Of course we will rotate, like it was at Inter Milan. We have the plan to give other players a rest.
How do you approach this in a stadium you haven’t played in?
For Watford it will be the same, the same conditions. We are going to try and adapt to our game and give our best and win the game. It is not an excuse to play in Milton Keynes, I don’t want to say anything negative, I am so optimistic and very positive. The circumstances are the circumstances and we can’t change them. We need to be clever and positive in a tough period that is now for the club. The last season was tough and now this is tough because the circumstance and the expectation was to play in our stadium and that is for everyone so disappointing and frustrating for many people. But it is so important from inside to keep strong and believe and try to be positive.
It is a circumstance no one wanted but we need to keep pushing. We cannot go down because the circumstances are the circumtances. If we lose we cannot say it is because of the circumstance, because we play in Milton Keynes, it’s because the stadium is not ready, it’s because we played at Wembley. It’s easy to blame all this but I don’t want to blame, I want to be responsible for the result and the performance and when I am happy I will tell you and when I am not happy I will tell you too. It will be good for the future because the stadium will be a fantastic venue to play football, the facilities here and the potential of the club is massive.
How unsettling is it for the players?
If there is one thing I didn’t want it is to give reason to the players, to us, to say, ‘If we don’t win it’s because of Milton Keynes, it’s because we don’t play at our stadium, it’s because we play at Wembley’. I am not like this. If we lose it’s because we deserve to lose and our performance is no good or because I made a mistake. It is our responsibility, but for me if you are a winner you have a different mentality and if you are a loser you always try to find an excuse to avoid responsibility. I understand that it is not the same as playing in your home and the help from our fans will be fantastic in our new stadium and the energy is different to play in Milton Keynes than your own stadium. But I don’t want to find an excuse, we need to go there and show personality and character and win the game. That is our responsibility, it is not to blame the venue or the fans or the chairman. When we are on the pitch, we are on the pitch, it is 11 v 11 and we need to be clever and better than the opponent. I understand football like this, this is my character and personality. I understand everything that happens around, but I try to avoid the players finding excuses.
How much sympathy do you have for the fans having to go to Milton Keynes and buying tickets for the new stadium?
I am the first that would like to finish the new stadium. If I have to go to work after training here and help the builders finish the stadium as soon as possible so the fans I will be happy, and all the fans will be happy and the chairman will be happy, I promise I go. But I told you in the past when there was the decision because it wasn’t ready for the date we expected to play against Liverpool we were so disappointed. I need to tell them sorry, that we are doing all that we can to try and finish and the chairman is so committed.
I promise he didn’t sleep trying to find solutions. Of course we feel disappointed for our fans but they need to understand that is a venue for the rest of our lives and for the next generations and years and years and it is so important to finish in the right way. Maybe one or two months means a lot , but in the end it is no time because the most important thing is to finish and be safe when we are going to move there – fans happy, players trying to give their best to win games and in the future have a venue that is going to help us win trophies. I think Tottenham’s future with this venue to play, with a stadium that will be the best, the only thing that we will be missing is trophies in the cabinet. But we need to start to put trophies there. The best training ground, the best stadium, the best fans, okay not so good manager and coaching staff, great players, only trophies we need to add to the history of the club.
One player who might feature is Juan Foyth, he started the season with an injury and missed out on the Champions League squad – how difficult has it been to manage his situation?
He will be in the squad but no it hasn’t been difficult to manage it. It’s true that it was very bad luck that he got injured the day before we were going to the USA and it was long the recovery. Now he’s doing well and he’s going to be in the squad. I don’t believe he is going to play but he will be in the squad.
There are reports coming out of Argentina that he might be in the next international squad…
Only I can tell you that some coaching staff contacted me asking about his form and how he is doing. I don’t know if he’s going to be called for the national team, but in the last month, in the last international break, some staff contacted me, yes.