London (AFP) – Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino goes into Saturday’s Premier League visit to Brighton in the unusual position of being under pressure following three straight defeats.
That run is a first in the Argentine’s four-year reign and comes amid wider concerns on and off the field that the undoubted progress made by Pochettino may stall this season.
A third straight season of Champions League football started with defeat to Inter Milan at the death on Tuesday and losses to Liverpool and Watford already leave Spurs trailing the Premier League leaders by six points.
Things have turned sour very quickly for Pochettino, who less than a month ago celebrated one of the best results of his time in charge with a 3-0 win at Manchester United.
“The group is, of course, a little bit anxious about winning games because it is normal when you don’t win the atmosphere and the energy is different but that happens,” said Pochettino on Thursday.
“Sometimes it is good to feel the pain of defeat, not only one but two or three.
“After Manchester United the perception was completely different. Now, after three defeats, all seems different but not under my eyes.”
Even that night at Old Trafford, there were signs of what was to come as the result could have been very different had United taking a slew of first-half chances.
Pochettino began to show signs of stress in midweek as he snapped at journalists for asking why he had left defenders Toby Alderweireld and Kieran Trippier back in London.
– Kane struggling –
The Belgian and England internationals are just two of a host of Spurs players that have looked fatigued from their exertions at the World Cup without a proper pre-season to rest and recover.
Harry Kane won the Golden Boot for scoring six goals in Russia, but hasn’t netted in his last five appearances for club and country and is another seemingly in need of a break.
The Times reported this week that Tottenham players believe Pochettino’s demanding training regime isn’t helping their World Cup hangover.
Spurs’ failure to add any new players in the transfer window has exacerbated the issue.
But Pochettino has refused to use a lack of transfer activity, or the delay in moving to the club’s new stadium as an excuse.
“Now it’s easy to blame or regret different things, that is the easy way to avoid responsibility,” he said. “I’m not going to avoid responsibility.”
The former Southampton boss has insisted he will take responsibility for is a worrying trend of conceding from set-pieces.
Of the six goals Spurs have conceded in their three defeats, four have come from dead ball situations.
“We need to be strong because the games that we lose, in the way we conceded the goals, it’s so painful,” added Pochettino.
Brighton will certainly put Spurs’ set-piece defending to the test with giant centre-back Shane Duffy scoring and winning a penalty in their 2-2 draw at Southampton on Monday.
The Irish international also scored from a corner in Brighton’s famous 3-2 win over Manchester United last month.
“Even without being near the ball, with the pure size of him, he’s always a threat. People are nervous around him,” said Brighton striker Glenn Murray.
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