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Does Mauricio Pochettino actually struggle against big teams?

Don’t be so quick to judge.

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Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Mauricio Pochettino came under a fair amount of criticism for his record against top opponents after Tottenham’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday.

The pessimism around White Hart Lane certainly wasn’t alleviated after the embarrassing defeat at Gent on Thursday. Putting aside the narrative, do Spurs actually perform worse against the so-called Sky 6 than their Champions League challengers?

Here is a look at the head-to-head records of the top six sides since the beginning of the 15/16 season.

Tottenham’s record against the Sky 6

Team Home points Away Points Total Points Matches PPG
Team Home points Away Points Total Points Matches PPG
Liverpool 14 16 30 18 1.67
Man Utd 16 8 24 16 1.50
Tottenham 16 8 24 18 1.33
Chelsea 14 9 23 18 1.28
Arsenal 12 4 16 16 1.00
Man City 8 7 15 16 0.94

There’s a lot to parse from this. The first that really stands (other than Liverpool’s bizarrely amazing record) out is Tottenham’s home form. They are currently undefeated, with big wins over Chelsea, Man City and Man United.

The away form is less good, with just one win in ten games. On the other hand, they managed to grind out some important draws and only lost four. That’s not terrible! Playing away from home against good teams is really hard. Arsenal only have one win in eight matches. City, who spend the GDP of a small country every summer, have won just two out of eight contests.

When you compare their record to the rest of the top six, Spurs actually fared pretty well, averaging 1.33 points per game (their total record against all sides is 1.9 ppg), the third-best mark.

So, could Pochettino’s side do better against big teams? Absolutely. He almost definitely got his tactics wrong against Liverpool (and to a certain extent against Man City). Still, that’s the only game they’ve lost by more than one goal, meaning they had a chance to get a positive result in all but one of 18 games.

Spurs probably don’t have the depth to go to Anfield with several members of the starting XI out of action and expect to get a result. They also have a fine record against the league’s other top sides. All of these things can be true!

To his credit, Pochettino has acknowledged that there is room for improvement, claiming Spurs won’t be true title contenders until they improve against their rivals, particularly away from home.

Tottenham have already played their last away game against a top-six side this season, so they’ll have to wait for an opportunity to improve on that record.

The Argentine has asked fans for patience, telling a news conference in Belgium, “You cannot change that mentality, that problem, in one-and-a-half years. That is a process to change. Maybe I will have time to improve that and change it. Maybe not. That is football. It’s about winning.”