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 have conceded fewer goals than Spurs this term, although their struggles in front of goal means they are staring down the barrel.
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 on Saturday.
“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,” he continued.
“You play for survival, you play to take a place in the Europa League. I think you need to be motivated in the same way.”
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