Spurs hit by lack of 'ruthless' qualities

Harry Kane shows his frustration during the 1-0 defeat by West Ham that left his team four points behind Chelsea, the English Premier League leaders. The Blues will host Middlesbrough on Monday.
Harry Kane shows his frustration during the 1-0 defeat by West Ham that left his team four points behind Chelsea, the English Premier League leaders. The Blues will host Middlesbrough on Monday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pochettino baffled by loss at critical juncture in title race, but refuses to blame his players

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino fears Tottenham Hotspur have blown their chance of winning the Premier League because they lack the ruthless streak required to succeed under intense pressure.

The Argentinian's side crashed to a shock 1-0 loss at West Ham United on Friday that left their title bid in tatters and put Chelsea within touching distance of being crowned champions.

Rocked by Manuel Lanzini's second-half strike, second-placed Tottenham remain four points behind the leaders and the title race could be over by the time they return to action against Manchester United next Sunday.

Chelsea need six points from four games to guarantee top spot and they would reach that target with wins against Middlesbrough tomorrow and West Bromwich Albion on Friday.

It is a painful prospect for a Tottenham side who had won their previous nine league games to spark dreams of a first title since 1961.

But the tame surrender recalled their collapse at the end of last season when they squandered opportunities to catch eventual champions Leicester City.

"We have to analyse why it was difficult to get the points here," a disappointed Pochettino said.

"To win a trophy you have to show in a key moment that you can win. Today was a key moment.

"There are games you must win, it's not about playing good or bad, or running more or less. We were missing a little bit. If you want to be champions you must win. How? I don't know. But you have to win."

Pochettino refused to condemn his players' lack of fight, but his deflated tone when he faced the media told a different story.

"It wasn't our best day. The performance was just okay," he said. "We conceded the sort of goal you do not concede when you are a team fighting for big things.

"I don't change my vision of my players. I'm very proud. It's so difficult sometimes to keep your level."

It would take a collapse of epic proportions to give Tottenham fresh hope and, while he insisted his side will not give up, Pochettino acknowledged it is almost certain Chelsea will finish on top.

"I'm calm but disappointed of course because we missed a chance to close the gap on Chelsea," he said. "Now it's better to forget a little bit and see what happens. We have only three games to reduce the gap."

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic said: "We deserved to win. It was great in terms of character and determination. To beat a team like Spurs you also need quality and we showed that."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 07, 2017, with the headline 'Spurs hit by lack of 'ruthless' qualities'. Print Edition | Subscribe