In the aftermath of Tottenham Hotspur's 2-1 home loss to Southampton, a bitterly disappointing result, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino says that Spurs need to forget about what their arch-rivals are doing, and concentrate on winning, since that's what big clubs do.
A win on Sunday would've clinched not only second place for Tottenham behind Leicester, but also would've confirmed that Spurs would finish ahead of north London rivals Arsenal for the first time since 1995. The loss, combined with Arsenal's draw with Manchester City, means that Spurs need at a draw against Newcastle next weekend to achieve both objectives.
In comments made in a post-match press conference, Pochettino said that he's not worried about what Arsenal are doing, and that Spurs' fortunes will hinge on their own mental fortitude.
"The last few weeks have been tough, [but] we are still in a great position and if we look back to the start of the season we all should be proud.
"We need to look at ourselves, not at our neighbor. We need to start to think like a big club, not worrying about what's happening in another house.
"We still need to learn a lot of things - we need to keep improving into next season. We need to change that mentality, to be strong and this what we need to change to be a big, big, big club."
There's a risk when you're a club like Tottenham that's just starting to emerge from the shadow of the clubs above it to continue to define itself in comparison to its rivals. Rivalries are there for a reason, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to finish ahead of Arsenal. After all, it's been 21 years... that's a significant milestone if it happens.
But there's no question that the last week is important. Arsenal play already relegated Aston Villa, while Spurs will head to St. James' Park to play a Newcastle club fighting for its Premier League survival.
Still, Pochettino's words are smart for a manager. Poche has the long view in mind, and that long view dictates that Spurs' ambitions have nothing to do with Arsenal. Pochettino isn't unaware of the nature of the North London Derby rivalry by any means... but neither is he willing to let Spurs let their overall seasons be defined by whether or not St. Totteringham's Day comes or doesn't come.
You can view his comments as either hedging to blunt fan disappointment in the event that Spurs capitulate against Newcastle next weekend, or you can view them as a pragmatic and realistic view of Spurs' ambitions going forward.
Tottenham are going to finish either in second or third in the table this season. While everyone will be upset if they slip behind Arsenal on the last day of the season, does that automatically make this season a disappointment overall? Pochettino would say no, and that to think otherwise is evidence of a small-club mentality.