Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham Losing 'Soft' Reputation Ahead of Arsenal Clash

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur arrives at the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on February 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has said his team are beginning to rid themselves of a reputation for being "soft" ahead of Saturday's clash with Arsenal.

Spurs face their north London rivals at Wembley Stadium at the end of what has been a challenging week for the club. Losses to Burnley and Chelsea have effectively ended the team's hopes of competing for the Premier League title, and now they are looking nervously over their shoulder at their rivals for a top-four place.

But speaking ahead of the game, Pochettino said he believes Spurs are being thought of less as an easy touch for opponents and praised their recent record against the Gunners:

"The history of the results against Arsenal was not great before I arrived. To change the perception, the mentality or reality is a tough thing to do and of course the team is doing a fantastic job of that in the last four or five years."

"And I think the team is changing the perception that Tottenham was a little bit soft. But the most important thing is that we are fighting in every single game."

Pochettino was recognised for his fine work as Spurs boss at the London Football Awards ahead of the match and couldn't resist a joke at his own expense:

B/R Football @brfootball

Poch's reaction to winning Manager of the Year at the #LFA19 😂 https://t.co/lXoOPeW6DC

Pochettino has only suffered defeat three times in 11 games against Arsenal as Tottenham manager. In 2013-14, the term before Pochettino was appointed, the Gunners beat Spurs on three occasions without conceding a goal.

Pochettino's assertion Spurs are ridding themselves of their "soft" tag will raise some eyebrows at the end of a challenging week for the players. After their consecutive losses, the Gunners can move to within one point of Tottenham with a win on Saturday.

Following the disappointing 2-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, Dan Kilpatrick of the Evening Standard predicted a battle for a top-four spot for Tottenham:

Dan Kilpatrick @Dan_KP

#thfc Spurs well & truly in a battle for the top four now. There wasn't a great deal in that match but individual mistakes cost them in a big game again. It's happened far too often.

Nizaar Kinsella of Goal summed up the predicament Spurs have suddenly found themselves in:

Nizaar Kinsella @NizaarKinsella

Spurs are now closer to sixth place Chelsea, who have a game in hand, than they are to Liverpool at the top of the table. Seven points between Chelsea and Spurs. #CFC #CHETOT

There has been plenty to suggest that Tottenham are capable of bouncing back from their disappointing losses. In addition, the team is on course of qualify for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, having won the first leg of their last-16 tie 3-0 against Borussia Dortmund.

Arsenal will go into this game in high spirits. Following a shock first-leg loss to BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, the team have won three games in succession on home soil, and in the 5-1 midweek mauling of Bournemouth, they jelled brilliantly as an attacking force.

But Tottenham represent a major step up in quality for the Gunners, and Pochettino's men will provide a big test at Wembley. Bouncing back from their lowest week of the 2018-19 campaign would certainly show this is a side with the kind of mentality needed to make further progress.