Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has suggested rival clubs are unprofessional to make clear their preference for Leicester winning the Premier League.Spurs’ draw at Chelsea on Monday ensured Claudio Ranieri’s men will be crowned champions this weekend. They have been popular victors, completing their remarkable journey from relegation battlers to table-toppers in just 12 months.
While Tottenham, who host Southampton tomorrow, tried to close the gap, a number of opponents expressed their backing for Leicester’s title bid, with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, West Brom manager Tony Pulis, and Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross just some of those to speak out before matches against Spurs.
Pochettino had previously insisted such talk was not a problem but after overseeing Monday’s fractious game at Stamford Bridge, in which Hazard scored the equaliser that confirmed the destination of the title, the Argentinian was less sympathetic towards the band of Foxes supporters.
“In football, our responsibility is to be professional,” said Pochettino. “When you are professional, you do not give your personal opinion.
“If I support Tottenham and we play against some team which fights for the title, or to survive, then I can’t give my opinion like a supporter.
“I need to give my opinion like a professional. It’s always dangerous when something happens like that.
“Maybe in the last few weeks or months, we know the football people maybe don’t behave like professionals, we need to be careful.
“Maybe in the next few meetings of the Premier League, the managers and also the staff, we need to say that in future we must be careful with all these comments in public.”
Mousa Dembele has been banned for six matches after accepting a Football Association charge of violent conduct, having appeared to claw his fingers down the cheek of Chelsea striker Diego Costa.
The Belgian did not contest the charge and FA rules do not allow clubs to appeal suspensions of six games or more.
Pochettino, speaking prior to the punishment being announced, said he had spoken to Dembele about the clash.
“I think even if you play sometimes football with your friends, if you play for the honour, for the beers, or for the sandwiches, you want to win,” said Pochettino.
“When you run and you go for the title, it is difficult sometimes to keep calm. I feel very proud of my players. I think we showed big character.
“Sometimes we crossed the line and if you cross the line you need to pay. We know the rules but I think it is a good lesson for us.
“We need to learn a lot and I am sure we will be stronger next season.”
Tottenham have traditionally been renowned for playing attractive football but also crumbling under pressure, and Pochettino believes Monday proved his side are no longer a soft touch.
“I hear in the last two years always people say ‘Tottenham was soft’,” he said.
“But now we start to show character. Maybe we crossed the line, I can recognise this, I am not stupid. It is important to manage better our energy for next season and ensure we learn a lot about this game.
“But this season we have shown we are not a nice team to play, not any more. I think our opponents don’t like to play against us because we show passion.”
Meanwhile, Southampton manager Ronald Koeman believes Shane Long’s form has been key in his side’s recent run. The Saints are unbeaten in their last four Premier League games and the 29-year-old striker has scored 10 goals in the league this season.
Long managed just five goals in the league last season, his first at the club.
Koeman said: “I remember when Shane came, I think in all aspects he has learnt a lot.
“We did a lot with Shane in a lot of aspects of football and I think he is more complete as a player, as a striker.
“His pace, his timing, his movements are full of confidence. It is a big example that you can still learn when you are 26, 27, 28. You can learn every day.
“It is a big example of how you can develop with the help of coaches and that is nice to see.
“He is really complete as a striker, in the box he is clever, he has a really good header, he makes it so difficult for the defenders because he is always on the move.”
Former defender Koeman added: “I am happy I played before Shane was a striker.”