LONDON- Mauricio Pochettino will not rest until Tottenham secure a place in the Champions League but his focus is already switching towards the club’s prospects of progressing next season.
Monday’s victory against Watford opened up a five-point gap on Chelsea, who sit in fifth position, and with three games left to play it is increasingly unlikely Pochettino’s side will be caught.
The trip to West Brom on Saturday presents Spurs with an opportunity to extend that advantage to eight points, 24 hours before Chelsea entertain Champions League finalists Liverpool.
While West Brom have improved dramatically under caretaker-manager Darren Moore, they remain on the brink of relegation and anything other than an away victory at the Hawthorns would come as a major shock.
With home meetings against Newcastle and Leicester to come, that would nudge the north London club ever closer to a return to European football’s premier competition, while three wins would guarantee a third-place finish.
The question for Pochettino is how he can take his side to the next level, as the club prepare for next season’s return to their rebuilt White Hart Lane home.
The Argentine, who has three years left on his contract, says development plans are in place for the long term and would remain so whoever was the manager.
This week he made it clear the club’s spending plans are not about to change dramatically, saying the move into a new, 60,000-seater arena will not mean a sudden increase in expenditure on transfer fees and wages.
“It is a new era,” he said. “We are moving to a different venue and you have to know the expectations because it won’t change everything and rain millions of pounds.”
Tottenham’s wage bill is lower than those of their closest rivals at the top of the Premier League, highlighting Pochettino’s success in keeping his side in the top four.
But after once again falling short in their efforts to land silverware – they lost the FA Cup semi-final to Manchester United and went out of the Champions League to Juventus in the last 16 – the manager will want to strengthen his squad.
With centre-back Toby Alderweireld and midfielder Mousa Dembele both expected to leave this summer, Pochettino already has two priorities to address before looking at other areas of his squad.
For now, though, he will be focused on West Brom and the importance of avoiding a slip against the team rooted at the foot of the table but who have won two and drawn two of the four games since Moore replaced Alan Pardew.
Dele Alli admitted the Watford win helped ease the memory of the semi-final defeat to United but that the side must now look forward.
“All we can do is keep fighting together, keep working and improving as a team,” the midfielder told tottenhamhotspur.com.
“We had to stay strong (after the semi-final). We had to pick ourselves up. We’re a team. Everyone was disappointed and together, we all wanted to get these three points against Watford – and we did that.” –AFP