Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham Hotspur are not focused on finishing above rivals Arsenal, insisting the club are “fighting for bigger things” this season.
Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace on Monday left them 14 points behind their neighbours — Tottenham’s biggest advantage since 1963 — with eight Premier League games to play. Tottenham can confirm a first finish above Arsenal in 22 years with victory in the North London derby at White Hart Lane on April 30 depending on results.
Second-place Tottenham are closer to league leaders Chelsea — trailing Antonio Conte’s side by seven points — and Pochettino dismissed the significance of the gap to Arsenal, saying it is not a priority for the club.
“We’re playing and fighting for bigger things, and if we look at the bigger picture, it’s about trying to reduce the gap with Chelsea,” he told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s home match against Bournemouth. “I think today it’s not important the gap we have with Arsenal.
“The most important thing is to do our job, try to win games and try to reduce the gap with Chelsea. I am confident about winning on Saturday.”
Tottenham host Bournemouth on Saturday, while Chelsea play at Manchester United on Sunday.
Pochettino said: “It’s important for us to get the three points more than to put pressure on Chelsea — to keep our level, to win games for ourselves, and try to, as a consequence, put pressure on them.
“Our target is Saturday, our challenge is to get the three points and then see what happens. No more. It is important to be ready on Saturday, give our best and try to win. Then what happens happens in different games. It’s true that they can provide us with the possibility to reduce the gap but we must do our job first.”
Pochettino also said that Dele Alli should have been named on the PFA Player of the Year shortlist after the 21-year-old was overlooked for the senior award but named among the six nominees to win the PFA Young Player of the Year.
Alli, who turned 21 on Tuesday, won the young player award last season and Pochettino said: “He’s improved a lot from last season. I think he’s a better player, he’s showing better stats and in my opinion yes, he deserves [to be on the main shortlist].
“After his first season in the Premier League, always the people want to see in the second season if he can confirm all that he showed last season. Not only did he confirm that, he’s improved in all aspects of his game. That means he’s clever, intelligent, still with potential to improve and learn, and today he’s showing that he’s one of the best players in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata said earlier this week that he had been approached directly by both Pochettino and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte about a transfer in the summer, but the Tottenham boss said signing the Spain international was unrealistic.
“It is a special thing because I know Morata from when I started my [managerial] career at Espanyol,” Pochettino said. “The reality is that he sent a text to me when I was manager at Espanyol, he contacted me for some advice and then we kept the relationship.
“He is a great kid and a very good player but it is not realistic to think Morata for us. Why? Because it is one thing to maintain a good relationship between him and me, but another to think about bringing him here. There is no sense to it.”