Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino played down his side’s title chances after they closed to within four points of the Premier League summit by overwhelming West Ham United 4-1.
Harry Kane scored twice, his seventh and eighth goals in five games, and defenders Toby Alderweireld and Kyle Walker were also on target at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Pochettino’s enterprising young team equalled the club record of 12 consecutive Premier League games without defeat.
With leaders Leicester City untested and Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United showing signs of vulnerability — not to mention floundering Chelsea — Spurs currently look the division’s most robust team, but Pochettino said it was too soon to anoint them title contenders.
“It’s early to start to speak about that,” said the Argentine, whose side entertain 15th-place Chelsea next weekend.
“It’s too far, the end of the season, and we are a very young squad. We need to develop our way (of playing), to be consistent.
“It’s true that we show from the beginning of the season that we are consistent, but to aspire to try to win the title, maybe we need more.
“Step by step. You don’t know. It’s difficult to guess today what will happen in four, five months.”
Asked specifically what he meant by “more”, he replied: “Always there’s something to improve.
“We need to keep working hard and stay with our feet on the ground.”
Pochettino professed himself “very proud” after watching his hard-working side dispatch a team who have already enjoyed wins over Arsenal, City, Chelsea and Liverpool this season.
Kane broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute, rolling Carl Jenkinson to fire home, and added a second with a low drive early in the second half after Alderweireld had made it 2-0 by heading in Christian Eriksen’s corner.
– ‘Stay calm with him’ –
Walker notched Spurs’ fourth goal, shaping a shot around West Ham goalkeeper Adrian with the outside of his right boot, before Manuel Lanzini claimed a late consolation for the visitors.
Kane admitted afterwards that he was “punching himself” for horribly miscuing a shot when clean through on goal shortly before half-time.
Spurs’ only real regret was a booking for Dele Alli following a shoving match with Mark Noble, which rules the midfielder out of the Chelsea game, but Pochettino defended the 19-year-old, who was named man of the match in England’s 2-0 win over France last Tuesday.
“He’s young. He’s played 10, 12 games in the Premier League. He’s 19 years old,” Pochettino said.
“Last week, (he had his) first start with the national team. It’s a lot of things in his head. We need to stay calm with him. He has a strong character and in every fight he’s always inside (involved)!
“But he’s still young and he needs to improve. Football is experience. I’m sure for the next time he’s more relaxed.”
West Ham, who now trail fifth-place Spurs by three points, badly missed the creative spark of French playmaker Dimitri Payet, who has been ruled out for around three months with an ankle injury.
But manager Slaven Bilic said: “When I say no excuses, that includes Payet as well. He’s our best player, that’s true, but there’s no point. Should we talk now about Dimitri Payet? It can’t be up to one player.”
Bilic said the extent to which his team had been outplayed had come as a “shock” and he urged his players to shake the game out of their system in time for next week’s clash with West Bromwich Albion.
“We’re going to analyse this game, of course,” said the Croatian, who gave on-loan Barcelona midfielder Alex Song his first appearance of the season following ankle surgery.
“On the other hand we have to put this game to bed as soon as possible and prepare for a game against West Brom. That is a perfect possibility to come back on the right tracks.” – Agence France-Presse