Tottenham have fallen short in their quest for Champions League football due to their inconsistency and defensive frailty – issues Mauricio Pochettino will work hard to fix this summer.
The former Argentina international’s first season at the White Hart Lane helm has been a topsy-turvy one, with some memorable wins and a trip to Wembley offset by some uninspiring defeats.
Spurs are on course to end the campaign with European qualification, although it is not the Europa League they are striving for.
There is a 10-point gap between fourth-placed Manchester United and Spurs in sixth after last weekend’s 3-0 loss at Stoke – a match which epitomised many of the issues Pochettino has encountered this season.
“I think our first half was very poor,” he said of the Britannia Stadium defeat. “The second half I think was good, but our reaction was late and we need to understand that we need to be more consistent next season.
“Maybe this season that is what happened – we played very well in many, many games, but we’re not consistent, didn’t keep our performance level up all season.
“This is why we did not achieve the top four, I really believe that. But it was good learning for us and the players that we need to be more consistent.
“We cannot repeat the performance again that we had in Stoke. A very bad performance, a very poor performance in the first half. In the second half we react and go forwards with 10 players and play much better.
“Why? This is difficult to understand. It is for that we need to realise that we need to be more consistent during the whole season.”
It is not just a consistent level of performance required as Pochettino knows a better balance needs to be struck.
Spurs often excite on the attack but struggle defensively, with only the defensive records of QPR, Newcastle and Leicester worse than the north Londoners’ this term.
“This is a little bit of a shame because we are fifth (in the scoring standings), but we are fifth from bottom in the goals we concede,” he said of the 53 let in by Spurs – equal with relegated Burnley.
“We need to find this balance. I think we need to be more consistent because in the way that we played, we are offensive, we score a lot of goals.
“We have three players with more than 10 goals (each). I think we are the only team (to have done that) as we have Harry Kane, Nacer Chadli and (Christian) Eriksen. Not Chelsea, not Arsenal, not another team have three players.
“But we need to find this balance better in offensive and defensive, and we need to improve a lot in our defensive situation.”
Even relegation-threatened Hull, who visit White Hart Lane on Saturday, have conceded fewer goals than Spurs.
Steve Bruce’s side sit in the remaining relegation spot with two matches remaining and Pochettino knows his players will have to match the Tigers’ motivation.
“Always it’s difficult to play against a team that plays for survival in the Premier League,” the Spurs head coach said.
“They have one, maybe two chances and this is the first for them, but for us we need to feel it’s as important like them.
“We play to finish in the top five or six and we need to get the three points. We need to feel it’s not only Hull who are playing for something important.
“Our motivation needs to be like them.”
Vlad Chiriches and Emmanuel Adebayor are sidelined for Tottenham. Last weekend’s red card in the defeat at Stoke means defender Chiriches is suspended, while striker Adebayor has been laid low with illness.
Kyle Walker (foot) and Ben Davies (shoulder) remain sidelined, but fellow full-back Danny Rose is fully fit after a groin injury.
Hull boss Bruce has backed his players to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Burnley and give themselves a fighting chance of staying in the Premier League.
The Tigers travel to north London in the knowledge that realistically only a win will be enough to extend their survival chances into the final week of the campaign.
But Bruce believes his side will be better prepared for the pressure they will face having frozen against Sean Dyche’s Clarets, who went down despite last weekend’s victory at the KC Stadium.
“Sometimes you get caught up in the occasion and forget how to perform, but I think we we will be better prepared for it this week and we will be able to handle the occasion better,” Bruce said.
“It has happened to great players that they get caught up in the occasion and forget how to play the game. It happened to me in my first semi-final for Manchester United when I just froze.
“But our results against Crystal Palace and Liverpool have proved what we are capable of and we have got to perform to the best of our ability to give ourselves a chance, and hope that there is one last twist.”
Bruce will take heart from the most unpredictable of relegation battles which has seen seemingly doomed Leicester launch a run which has taken them to the brink of safety while Newcastle have dropped into danger from nowhere.
And with a home game against Manchester United set to round off their season, Bruce will also take note of his side’s solid performances against the bigger teams this term, having taken points from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal.
“We have got a team that is capable and we have proved that with some of our results,” Bruce said. “We have missed big players for large chunks of the season but we have still got enough.
“Who would have thought that West Brom would win at Manchester United or Sunderland would win at Everton? Or that Leicester would go on such a big run? All we can do is give ourselves the chance.”
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