Mauricio Pochettino held a press conference this morning ahead of Tottenham Hotspur’s trip to Merseyside to face Everton. Predictably, some of the intended questions were about Pochettino’s connection to the now-vacant Manchester United job and not Sunday’s match.
However, Spurs’ Head of Media Simon Felstein was having none of that, and repeatedly asked reporters to not ask questions relating to United. At one point, the television cameras were even turned off in the press room for a couple of minutes until reporters changed their tack.
It makes sense — Felstein repeatedly reiterated that Pochettino had already addressed the opening in his previous press conference, and you could infer that this was one way that Spurs could try and control the narrative which is already starting to spin out of control.
Instead, Pochettino continued to praise Dele Alli for his reaction to being hit on the head with a bottle thrown from the stands in yesterday’s League Cup win over Arsenal. Poch said that Dele’s reaction showed a further maturity, even though he goaded the crowd by flashing the 2-0 score with his fingers.
“I think it was an amazing reaction. In another country maybe player go down on the pitch and create a big problem. Dele is so honest and professional. He behaved really, really well. His behaviour was top. I think the Arsenal people, the club, must be grateful with him. In different situation player go down and create a massive problem and it would be difficult to manage after that for the referee and for the people there. I think the behaviour was top from Dele. Sometimes in the people criticise him in the past for some actions of the game. I think it is good today to praise him because his behaviour was top.
“Of course he’s more mature now. He’s more mature. He’s a kid, he’s still young, but he’s clever and he’s more mature. It’s normal this process. Like us, we are growing and growing. I think it’s a situation that when I think that I hate this type of situation and action. I know very will that Arsenal will take responsibility and fix that problem, but of course we need to praise Dele because his behaviour was fantastic.”
Pochettino also looked ahead to what is a super congested holiday fixture period for Spurs. For a stretch over the holidays, Spurs will play a series of matches with only two days of rest in between, and Poch reiterated that he will rotate his squad, using all the players at his disposal.
“I’m not going to complain. In previous season we enjoy more of gap in between games. Now for us is a tougher period and more than ever we will use squad. I feel sorry for the people who do not like rotation, but we are going to use all the squad. We will be ready to compete and to be competitive I think we need all the squad.”
One player who probably will not feature in the holiday fixtures is Mousa Dembele. Spurs’ midfielder, so important to their play the past few seasons, has been out for a long stretch this season with an injury, and Poch suggested he might not be ready to play in matches again until February. Jan Vertonghen, however, may return sooner.
“No. I think until January we will see. It’s evolution. Close? I don’t know if it means one week, two week or one month. We need to asses him day-by-day, but I think in January he’s not going to be ready. Maybe he will be ready to start to train with the team, but not at a level to play.
“I was talking this morning with [Vertonghen]. He feels like he’s fit but it’s hard. He’s recovering well and we’ll see. Hopefully [he’ll be back] as soon as possible.“