LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino feels his Tottenham Hotspur players have a sharper focus on their Premier League title challenge, in marked contrast to last season when "all the world tried to kill" them and will Leicester City to their fairytale triumph.
The manager watched his team ramp up the pressure on the leaders Chelsea with a 4-0 dismissal of Bournemouth at White Hart Lane on Saturday. It moved them to within four points of the Blues, although they have played a game more.
Pochettino talked afterwards of how Tottenham had expended a lot of negative energy during last season's title run-in, when it was not just Leicester they were battling.
The Spurs manager felt that it was everybody else, too - including opponents who had been seduced by the Leicester story and wanted then-manager Claudio Ranieri's underdogs to win the title.
Pochettino said pointedly that it was "fair play" in the fight with Chelsea this time, and his players were clearer about what was required to push to the end in the title battle.
Tottenham ended up drawing two and losing two of their final four matches last season to finish below not only the champions, Leicester, but also - for the 21st season in a row - their north London rivals, Arsenal.
Pochettino had watched Ranieri on Sky last Monday, when the manager who led the Foxes to the title was the guest for the Crystal Palace versus Arsenal game.
And the Tottenham manager was particularly interested to hear Ranieri mention the goodwill his former team had felt last season.
"It was good if you heard Ranieri," Pochettino said. "We recognised that the world was, for us, trying to help Leicester.
"When I told you that last season, maybe you thought, 'This guy is a little bit crazy.'
"But now that you hear from him, I think you can put in my position and the players' position.
"It was so, so difficult because the team that all the world tried to kill was Tottenham in second place.
"We learnt a lot from last season. But now we are focused on fighting only our opponent when we play. Now, it is fair play.
"Nobody is against Tottenham and I think it is a competition," said Pochettino.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE