Mauricio Pochettino thought the reason Tottenham Hotspur lost at home to Newcastle on Sunday was pretty clear and pretty simple, and he said so in the post-match press conference at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The answer was also pretty evident to everyone who watched the match: Spurs lost because they were bad.
“I think it’s easy. We didn’t play well. Very disappointed with our performance and the result in the end. Again we conceded a very cheap goal in the first half and then it was difficult. They showed that they were very well organised with their defensive line and they were very compact. For us we weren’t capable of breaking down their organisation.
“We created some chances. Not too many, not enough to be honest. That is why we’re very disappointed with the performance and the result but we cannot justify our performance. We should be playing better, more desire, more capacity to be more aggressive in this type of game, because 80 per cent of possession is too much for only a few shots on target.”
Poch could’ve left it there and it would’ve been enough, quite frankly. But he didn’t. Elaborating on a follow-up question from a journalist, Poch suggested that the somewhat faltering start from Spurs has not been helped by the European transfer window still being open, and he went on to call this particular Tottenham team his “most unsettled.”
“[T]his is my sixth season and [it is] the most unsettled group we are working with. That is why we are relaxed and calm. Some situations we cannot fix. Nothing to say about that, situations that are going on in the squad. Still we need to wait.
That is the circumstances after playing the Champions League on June 1, we knew that some situations like this would happen but for us and the club it’s difficult to handle. What can we do? We can only wait. I say again, you have for sure more information than me about what’s happening in the market and that’s why I cannot do more than try to help the team find the best dynamic to train and not to create too many problems and be a person who is not being very emphatic, but understand every single situation and try to get a good result.”
It’s hard to get a bead on the subtext behind these comments. We know that there are stil lingering contract issues swirling around Toby Alderweireld, and of course Christian Eriksen. There also appears to be something going on with Jan Vertonghen — this is the third straight match that he has not featured at all — though we don’t know what exactly that is. It could be contract related, or performance related and it would be unwise to speculate at this point.
What seems clear is that Poch is frustrated with how things are going thus far. Alasdair Gold, who was present at the interview, noted that Pochettino seemed to be holding back, like there were things he wanted to say but didn’t feel like he could.
Feels like there's much more going on behind the scenes than just Eriksen and Vertonghen to me. Poch's answer about the squad and the problems and lack of dynamic hinted at so much more he wanted to say but couldn't. https://t.co/ohoAdI47Of— Alasdair Gold (@AlasdairGold) August 25, 2019
Pochettino’s comments about Eriksen, which danced around the question of whether the Danish playmaker didn’t start out of injury concerns before a hypothetical transfer, seemed to illustrate Gold’s perspective pretty well.
“It’s so difficult, the situation. We cannot blame one party or another. That is the situation, the circumstances. We arrive today with different players and different situations in the squad but I don’t want to justify our performance because of that. I want to make clear the point. When you play football and are on the pitch you don’t think about these situations.”
This isn’t anything a couple of solid wins, or even a good result in the North London Derby next weekend, can fix. Poch is still without the injured Dele and Tanguy Ndombele, and new signing Giovani Lo Celso is obviously not fully integrated into the team yet. However, there do appear to be cracks appearing in the facade of this team. For the sake of his ambitions for this Spurs side, Pochettino will want to get any lingering issues taken care of as soon as possible, one way or another.