Spurs blasted for lacking hunger, mental strength

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino was damning in his assessment of his Tottenham players after they lost 2-1 at Southampton, accusing them of "complacency" and "arrogance" before suggesting that they do not have the mental strength required to win major honours.

Spurs looked on course for victory, having taken the lead through Harry Kane's 26th-minute goal and they were utterly dominant against their relegation-threatened opponents on Saturday.

But then came a quite incredible turnaround after the break as the Saints recorded their first home victory over Spurs since returning to the Premier League in 2012.

Yan Valery equalised before James Ward-Prowse scored the winner nine minutes from time as Spurs threw away their advantage.

Spurs were incredibly poor after the interval, especially in defence, and their manager, who was forced to watch from the directors' box, having been hit with a two-game ban for improper conduct, was not sparing in his criticism.

"It is so difficult to understand the way we played the second half," said Pochettino. "We showed a lack of hunger that you need to kill the game and, if you want to be a contender, to fight for things, you cannot play like this.

"We started to take some risks that were unnecessary and that was the main problem. It gave them belief and they started to build their game.

"When you lose the momentum after 45 minutes, that is about mentality, that is about being strong and keeping it right."

Spurs have three defeats and a draw from their past four league games, a curious run given their fine Champions League last-16 victory over Borussia Dortmund and one that puts their hopes of finishing third in jeopardy.

Admitting that it would be a "massive challenge" for Spurs to stay ahead of their top-four rivals, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all within striking distance, Pochettino added: "We are fighting against big sides.

"People talk about perceptions, but we need to realise if you do not fight with intensity for the Champions League, you will struggle.

"We had a big gap, welcome to the reality, we are under pressure to win games."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2019, with the headline 'Spurs blasted for lacking hunger, mental strength'. Print Edition | Subscribe