Pochettino relieved with fifth
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted he was grateful he will not have to worry about Europa League qualifiers next season, when he hopes Spurs can go one better and seal a top-four berth.
In the final round of fixtures, Pochettino’s side jumped above Liverpool into fifth spot by winning 1-0 at Everton thanks to yet another Harry Kane goal.
The PFA Young Player of the Year finished his breakthrough campaign with a 31st goal of the season for his club with a glancing header from Eric Dier’s right-wing cross midway through the first period.
It was Kane’s 21st in the Barclays Premier League, a figure which has also been reached by Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham and Gareth Bale in years gone by.
Tottenham’s current talisman may now have to worry about a hectic summer due to his call up to the England Under-21s squad for the European Championship, but a fifth-placed finish means Kane’s club colleagues can at least look forward to an August without any Europa League qualifiers.
Asked about the value of finishing fifth, rather than sixth, Pochettino said: “It’s very important because we are straight to the (Europa League) groups. For next season we have more time to prepare for the season and this is very important.
“Finishing above Liverpool, Southampton and Everton is a very, very good thing for Tottenham. From the beginning of the season we can see that the ambition was unbelievable in the club.
“For us, our (goal) next season is to try and improve our squad and try to fight from the beginning of the next season for the top four. It’s a difficult thing but we need to be ambitious.”
Twelve months ago, in Roberto Martinez’s maiden season, it was Everton who had achieved the fifth-placed finish.
But, having reached the Europa League quarter-finals this term, their place in the final standings was 11th, 17 points behind Pochettino’s visitors.
The Toffees played their 51st game of the term in an end-of-season slumber and Spurs, who themselves were in action for the 57th time, were far brighter during a first period when they dominated possession.
“From a football point of view, the first half we weren’t good enough and we lost the game in that first 45 minutes,” said Martinez.
“It’s really disappointing because I don’t think we performed in that loose manner; our quality on the ball was very poor. We were caught in two minds and we allowed them easy possession at times.
“A simple cross and (Kane’s) got a free header in the box so every aspect of our performance was quite disappointing.”
It was the defeat to Spurs in the reverse fixture back in November which kickstarted a worrying run of one victory in 13 games in all competitions for the Toffees.
They flirted with the relegation zone before rallying down the stretch with victories over Southampton, Manchester United and West Ham once their Europa League commitments were ended.
“The problem has been we couldn’t enjoy any momentum in the first half of the season,” Martinez added as he reflected back on the campaign.
“I think Europe got in the way; it’s not an excuse, it’s a reason, but something we can learn from. We want to be in Europe, we want to fulfil our level in the domestic competitions.
“The last 30 points we’ve showed that character, that fight, that personality of facing adversity, having to win and winning. That’s going to be the base of what we need to build for next season”
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