LONDON • Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino says he might have become the first manager to begin the pre-season by admonishing his players. "I just told them, 'If I had the opportunity to kill you, then I kill everyone'," he said.
The Argentinian had stewed all summer on his team's 5-1 defeat at Newcastle on the final day of last season, sealing a disappointing four-game slump from potentially winning the English Premier League to their eventual third place.
And there was a full and frank exchange of views between manager and players before their opening game of the season against Everton today.
"Maybe, yes, I am the first manager to start pre-season with a rollicking," Pochettino said. "But the players needed to hear from the manager how I felt after the game, and after the season. I explained my point of view and it was a very good meeting."
The Argentinian has added Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama, an £11 million (S$19.2 million) capture from Southampton, and Netherlands forward Vincent Janssen, who cost £17 million from AZ Alkmaar, to his playing pool.
Midfielder Mousa Dembele is suspended but fellow Belgian Jan Vertonghen is available to return in defence after recovering from an ankle injury picked up during Euro 2016.
"We need to know how to improve our mental state," Pochettino added.
"This was key in the last few games of last season. It is not tactical, it is not philosophical because, after two years, we know very well how we need to play. It is in our heads that we need to improve. But our team today are more mature than last season."
As for Everton, new manager Ronald Koeman insists the Toffees will not sell Romelu Lukaku and Phil Jagielka. He is looking to add three or four more players in the wake of the £47.5 million sale of England defender John Stones to Manchester City.
Koeman admits some players are far below peak fitness. Wales captain Ashley Williams will not play following his midweek arrival from Swansea.
"We had to prepare ourselves to get a player in his position and that's Ashley Williams," the Dutchman said. "He will bring leadership, experience. He knows the Premier League for a long time but he is still not available for the weekend because of the Euros."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE