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Mauricio Pochettino says he loves “the risk” and wants “to feel again the adrenaline” as he embraced the pressure of wanting to win immediately with Chelsea on his presentation at the club. The Argentine insisted there can be “no excuses” about youth, imploring a young squad to be ready to compete immediately.
Pochettino nevertheless refused to discuss whether Tottenham had made a summer approach or whether he wants to sign Harry Kane, partly out of respect for his former club as well as an insistence on looking to the “future”. The new Chelsea manager argued he is now “by far” a better manager than when he left the Premier League in 2019 due to his experiences with Paris Saint-Germain.
Pochettino otherwise cut a relaxed and smiling figure as he joked about being able to walk out of the press conference at any point due to it being voluntary, but he was clearly keen to send across the right message – not least to Chelsea fans. A club that had experienced two seasons of uncertainty and drift now have a manager who wants to immediately return them to the one he was almost envious of as an opposition manager, describing them as the best club in England over the past 15 years due to “trophies – men and women”.
“It’s a great football club… always difficult to play against whether in Southampton or Tottenham, always a battle and I remember always to have very, very tough games against Chelsea.”
It was put to Pochettino that was partly because of an exacting culture that has chewed up many managers and could be a risk to his reputation. This was instead something else he embraced.
“No, but I love the risk. I love, you know, to be on the top with the expectations to be here, and I think for me it’s a challenge. It’s a big challenge, that I want to feel, I want to feel again, the adrenaline, and you know to be there fighting for big things.”
Pochettino faced up to perceptions of him as a manager who hasn’t yet got certain teams over the line but said it’s healthy for coaches to have such challenges.
“I want to prove myself, that I can deal with that.”
It is why the rationale of all his coaching with the squad right now is to be ready right away.
“Now we need to be competitive in the training ground or we are not going to arrive on time. I don’t want to make excuses to the players to say first of all we need time to rebuild, we need time to work, we need, we need, we need. No, no excuses and we start to work hard, to manage and drive the way that we want. No excuses. The competition doesn’t wait for anyone and now we are going to start again against Liverpool in the first game to be ready to win, and if not we are going to struggle for sure.”
Mauricio Pochettino says Chelsea cannot expect patience as they look to move on from last season (James Manning/PA)
It was consequently quite pointed that he dismissed the idea that this is too young a squad, or that he works best with younger players.
“With experience or without experience you can win or lose. If not, it’s not a rule. The most important thing whether experience or no experience it is to get the right balance in the squad, in the team, to try to feel good, feel strong. I think we have players with experience for how we are going to cook and put the ingredients together and work really well.
“In Espanyol, Southampton, Tottenham – Paris Saint-Germain you cannot count because it is different, no? – but it’s always about a mix. With [Hugo] Lloris, my captain in Tottenham, won the World Cup and he wasn’t experienced, he was young. Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembele, plenty of players… sometimes this is the idea of Pochettino with younger players. Yes, of course I love the young talent and energy but to mix with nice people, with experience that can provide to the younger ones at some point the capacity to be relaxed and to behave always in the right way.”
Pochettino’s Tottenham past did weigh over a lot, perhaps all the more so as he refused to get into it, but the real question was whether there had been any overtures to relive it. The Argentine was asked twice whether Levy had made contact this summer but did not want to discuss it.
Kane blossomed at Tottenham under Pochettino
“I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t want to say anything because all that talk is going to take us back. What I can say is that I am so proud of my past there. Nobody is going to change the story of when we were there together for nearly six years.
“We have a very good relationship with Daniel and with all the Tottenham people. I think there’s no point. We need to look forwards. What am I going to say – yes, no or maybe. And what is it going to change? Nothing. I feel very proud about the past and I am so happy. You never know in football [what] can happen in the future. I am here and I am really happy to be here now, and I need to give my best and hope that all together can create again an atmosphere and all the excitement that was in the past in this football club and try to lift trophies – that is our objective.”
He was similar when pressed on Kane, despite Chelsea’s recent lack of goals.
“I don’t like to talk about players in another club, but you are talking about one of the greatest, one of the best strikers in the world…It’s not fair to talk, it’s not fair to say nothing. People are not stupid, fans are not stupid, they are so clever and they know my relationship with him was always amazing. I saw him when he was young, grow up and achieve all he was achieving and of course we have a great relationship.”