Pochettino speaks on CL, new signings & ‘that’ nutmeg

Mauricio Pochettino admits he would like to sign a pacy attacking midfielder before the end of the transfer window as Tottenham seek to bring Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha to White Hart Lane.

Spurs have been in lengthy negotiations with Marseille in an attempt to recruit wide man Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, and they are now targeting Zaha.

It is unclear whether the club intend to sign both players, but they are of a similar ilk. And, while Pochettino has a firm policy of refusing to discuss transfer rumours or individuals at other clubs, he admits he would like another pacy attacking midfielder in his squad.

“Yes, I would like add a player like this,” he said. “We have improved because now we have two strikers – last season only one – and now I think we need some players in the second line of offence to help the team to compete better and to have more quality in the squad, because it will be a very tough season for us with the Champions League and very tough competitions.”

Spurs discovered who they will face in Europe’s elite club tournament earlier today, being placed in Group E along with CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco.

“It will be my first opportunity to play Champions League football as a manager,” said Pochettino. “This will be exciting for me and for the players too – for a lot of players it is their first time to play in the Champions League.

“To play at Wembley is another exciting possibility – to play in front of 90,000 people will be a great moment for us, a great moment for Tottenham and our supporters too.

“The Champions League is a big motivation for every player and, with respect to the Europa League, it is not the same. In the Champions League you play in the top competition in the world and that’s why it is very motivating to play in it.”

For now, the focus is on Saturday’s Premier League clash against Liverpool at White Hart Lane.

The last time Spurs hosted the Reds – a goalless draw last October – Jurgen Klopp was taking charge of his first game for the visitors.

The Merseysiders have now had 10 months to get used to the German’s methods, but

Pochettino also feels his team have developed and taken forward strides in that time.

“Are we a different side? Yes, with more experience,” said Pochettino. “It’s true that last season people had big expectations, or a big question mark, about how we would develop our squad, our team.

“I think it was very hard work to improve and develop our style of play, because it wasn’t only collective, it was individual. For a lot of players it was their first season, like Dele Ali. For Eric Dier it was his first complete season as a holding midfielder – a new position for him. There were different things like that.

“That’s why I think sometimes people don’t realise how important last season was – and to be involved in trying to win the Premier League. I think many things happened. We learned a lot and improved a lot but it’s true that it will be tougher this season to try to succeed again.”

Meanwhile, Pochettino has elaborated on comments made earlier in the day when he admitted he was unmoved by Erik Lamela’s nutmeg on Andros Townsend in Saturday’s 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace.

“For me, it is part of football but I enjoy it more when my players score goals than do this sort of action,” he said.

“I understand Lamela’s game – he is always trying things like this in training sessions. But for me, it’s important to show respect to the opponent. I understand it’s a part of the game but for me it is nothing to comment on or celebrate.

“I don’t like it when you try to humiliate your opponent. Lamela never tries to humiliate opponents – it’s just the way he plays. But it is nothing to celebrate.

“One day, if we win a trophy or the Premier League, it will be time to celebrate – or when we score a goal or win a game. Not for this type of action.

“That is just my point of view. I accept it as a behaviour, though. People tried to nutmeg me when I was player, but they did it knowing that afterwards I would kill them!

(Ham & High)

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