• ‘If we want to fight for trophies we need to keep that intensity’
• Chelsea’s Antonio Conte believes six teams are in contention for title
Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham can achieve big things after ending Chelsea’s winning run with a 2-0 derby victory. Spurs are now third in the Premier League, seven points behind the leaders after Dele Alli’s double secured the hosts’ fifth straight home success.
“It’s only one game,” he said. “We need to be regular and consistent during the whole season. We’re happy for the victory, but it’s only three points. If we want to fight until the end of the season for big things, for trophies, you need to keep that intensity. That is always the challenge.”
Chelsea were seeking a single-season record of 14 straight wins, to draw level with Arsenal’s all-time record from 2002 that was spread across two campaigns.
They would have gone eight points clear of Liverpool, but their lead remains five. “It was important for us to reduce the gap,” Pochettino said.
“The top four is very competitive, it’s very close. It’s true the gap still is important to Chelsea. It was the perfect thing for us to arrive to third place and be close. That is important for us and there are a lot of games before the end of the season.”
Pochettino was pleased with the maturity his side showed, having imploded at Stamford Bridge last May, when they conceded a two-goal lead in a draw that clinched the title for Leicester. “The performance was fantastic,” he said. “The most important thing was that we showed great character. We were very competitive. Maybe that was the problem last season, that we missed to compete in a competitive way. You need to play, you need to suffer, you need to fight. Sometimes you need to give the ball to them because they push you. Today we understood what it means to be competitive.”
Pochettino praised Alli, but does not believe the former MK Dons midfielder is an exception in the Spurs ranks. “Dele was clinical in front of goal. It was great. He’s showing big talent and potential. Not only him. We can talk about Harry Kane, many others.”
Chelsea’s most recent league defeat was also in north London, a 3-0 loss at Arsenal on 24 September. The head coach, Antonio Conte, believes his team have been transformed since then. “After a defeat it’s always very difficult to know your reaction,” he said. “It’s normal when you lose a game to try to think why. This defeat is totally different if you compare our defeats in September.
“Against Liverpool and Arsenal at that moment we weren’t a team. Tonight, we showed we are a team. We are a strong team. We tried to fight. We tried to win the game, or not lose. I saw the right will in my players, but don’t forget that tonight we played against a really good team, a tough game.” Conte rued the moment when Diego Costa and Pedro squabbled in the first half. “A good chance for us and we wasted this chance.”
The Italian’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation has served his team well during the 13-game winning sequence but Conte knows there are challenges to come. “To stop us the other teams are changing formation,” he said.
He believes Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are in title contention. United are 10 points behind Chelsea in sixth. “The situation is very clear. There are six teams that can fight for the title or a place in the Champions League. I’m sure one of these six teams will be champions.”