THere is a perception that steam has accumulated in the course of what Mauricio Pochettino has described as the "strange" season of Tottenham. It is a bit slippery but it goes like this: his team does not play well.
Qualification is required. Spurs were excellent in the second half at Manchester United, when they ran in three goals for a 3-0 victory, and there have been other spells in matches when they got together or a person saved them.
But the overall impression was of a collective that played largely in itself and rarely touched the levels of fluency of previous campaigns. The main blots were the loss of the home base for Manchester City and Liverpool.
"I can not fight with observation," said Pochettino, before Saturday's theater-time derby against Chelsea in Wembley. "I only fight with reality, what is reality? The reality is that we are in the top four."
Good point. The table shows Tottenham in fourth place, behind City, Liverpool and Chelsea in that order – all of which remain unbeaten. The rivals of Spurs have received praise for their football at various times, with Chelsea's connections perhaps the most surprising, as the manager, Maurizio Sarri, took over the helm in mid-July.
And yet traces are only one point behind them. They are five of the leaders, City.
The Pochettino team has sometimes made it difficult to take six of their nine Premier League victories by the strange goal; three at 1-0 scorelines. Their resilience is an underexposed quality and the positive reading of Tottenham's season is that they have done remarkably well in the face of adversity.
The problems are well documented, beginning and ending with the state of change of the new stadium movement – with all the frustrating delays – and the inclusion of Wembley and his increasingly suspicious playing surface, World Cup fatigue, injuries and failure to renew the team with summer boards. They have repeatedly found a way to win.
The buzzwords of Pochettino are this season & # 39; Perception & # 39; and & # 39; reality & # 39; been. He is not a fan of the first. "In general, perception is not real and in football the most important thing is to talk about reality, because if we move through perceptions, we can sometimes make a mistake or make mistakes," said Pochettino. "To win, you have to score more than the opponent – it's not about what you earn or perceive: to win trophies, you have to talk about reality, not perception, so it's so dangerous to talk about perception. & # 39;
But at the same time, Pochettino knows that something is wrong; the parts of the team do not really click. As someone who attaches great importance to energy and emotion, he can feel it. Moreover, he is not afraid to emphasize it. Why? Perhaps it is a means of managing expectations; to paint Spurs as the brave underdog, roaring under the radar.
To illustrate his concerns, Pochettino went back to the last season in White Hart Lane in 2016-17, when the team played with fearlessness and synergy and their home record was: P19 W17 D2. He called Chelsea's visit just after new year, when Dele Alli scored the goals in a 2-0 victory, which was perhaps their most impressive of the season. Chelsea, who would be champion, had arrived on a series of 13 consecutive league victories and wanted to match Arsenal's record of 14 in a row.
"Football is about energy," Pochettino said. "Remember last season in White Hart Lane last season? We were unbeaten in 10 months and you said we played so well and had the best team in the Premier League because it was because, between the staff, players and fans, we have an amazing created energy and faith was huge We started thinking that we would win – against Man United or Chelsea – it did not matter, at the moment that belief and that state is not the same.
"The disappointment of the people this season is because we have not moved to the new stadium.We are human, the players and the staff are all disappointed and that is not a good emotion that will help you achieve anything you want. is in a project where thinking about winning titles, completing the facilities, completing the stadium and living in a very good state, then start building that belief that we can beat everyone, be consistent and fight for big things, we're just there to get that step you're still missing is so big. "
Pochettino was asked if his players would be stronger for this season's fight, which is normally an open goal for managers, but he went the other way. "I understand that theory, but it is not always that way," said Pochettino. "There are many ingredients in a football club and sometimes it is difficult to observe from the outside, but if you spend 12 hours a day, you know that." There are many things to look out for, many conditions in a human group Sometimes this is this and many things happen in the club that do not or do not help the team to be that strong. "
Pochettino and his players will fight. He will not like it, but the Chelsea game offers the possibility to change perceptions.