14 August 2014 21:04
Mauricio Pochettino feels Tottenham must learn lessons from last season if they are to improve in the Premier League this term.
Spurs face a London derby with West Ham at Upton Park in their top-flight opener on Saturday, with the club aiming to improve on a sixth-placed finish in 2013-14.
The fixture marks Pochettino’s competitive debut as Tottenham head coach, with the Argentinian having left Southampton for White Hart Lane in May.
With all five teams who finished above Spurs last season – Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton – having spent big along with Manchester United, who are expected to bounce back under Louis van Gaal, the north London club are widely regarded as outsiders for UEFA Champions League qualification.
However, Pochettino is confident his team are capable of competing with the best the Premier League has to offer – as long as they fulfil their potential.
“We want to improve every time, but we need to learn,” he said on Thursday.
“We know we need time to improve our new system, our new philosophy, but we are very happy at the moment.
“We [must] improve quickly and the most important thing is we are ready to play and compete.”
Tottenham went through pre-season unbeaten, but in West Ham they meet a side who beat them three times last term – twice in the league and once in the League Cup.
Furthermore, Pochettino has fitness concerns over no fewer than seven players with Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Dembele, Nacer Chadli and Paulinho all having re-joined training late following their involvement at the World Cup.
Kyle Walker is struggling with a pelvis problem, while Michael Dawson (knock) and Vlad Chiriches (back) are also doubtful.
West Ham have injury issues of their own with injury-plagued striker Andy Carroll (ankle) and winger Matt Jarvis (knock) unavailable, while a late decision will be made on close-season signing Enner Valencia, who played for Ecuador at the World Cup.
The new campaign could be make-or-break for manager Sam Allardyce who endured a difficult 2013-14 season.
West Ham had a poor end to the season and there were calls from certain sections of the Upton Park faithful for Allardyce to be removed.
West Ham’s co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan retained faith in the 59-year-old, on the condition Allardyce employed a more attractive brand of football – with Teddy Sheringham drafted in as attacking coach to help those ambitions.
In addition to Valencia’s signing, Allardyce has bolstered his attacking options with forward Mauro Zarate, while the likes of Cheikhou Kouyate, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell have also added to West Ham’s squad.
And the former Newcastle United boss is happy with his close-season business, saying: “Overall we’ve gone out and shopped very wisely.
“From my point of view, it’s about the age of the players as well as the talent of the players. Of the signings, the average age comes out at about 23 years of age.
“That’s good for now and good for the future.”