Newcastle: Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 victory at Newcastle United in their Premier League opener has not altered his desire to finally strengthen his squad before the transfer deadline.
Pochettino remains aware Tottenham lack the depth and quality to compete in four competitions this season after failing to make a single close-season signing while their rivals all spent big money on new recruits.
The Spurs boss was encouraged that they started the season by winning a game that was finely balanced until Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey was sent off early in the second half on Sunday.
Newly-promoted Newcastle had coped comfortably with the Tottenham attack, but Shelvey’s foolish stamp on Dele Alli was the turning point.
Goals from Alli and Ben Davies punished Shelvey’s rush of blood, but Pochettino still wants to bring in new players before the transfer window shuts at the end of August as he aims to emulate last season’s title challenge.
“It was important to start with three points, but it wasn’t a great game and wasn’t our best performance. The most important thing for me was starting the season in the right way,” he said.
“The balance of the team is the main thing and we need some new players to bring some new energy. It is important to challenge your best players and refresh the squad. We are calm enough to compete in the same way as we competed last season, but we need to sign some players before the end of the transfer window. We have 10 months to go and we are involved in four competitions, so we need more competition, more quality and more people who can help keep the level we want to show in every game.” Pochettino insisted that Tottenham would have triumphed even if Shelvey had stayed on the pitch, although there was little evidence to support that claim.
“Of course we would have won. But it was difficult to play because the pitch was so dry and Newcastle played deep,” he said.
“It was difficult to find space to create chances. In the second half we played against 10 men and that always helps and made it more comfortable for us.”
Pochettino singled out the contributions of Alli and Christian Eriksen, but 20-year-old right-back Kyle Walker-Peters was named man of the match after replacing near namesake Kyle Walker following his move to Manchester City.
“He was so calm,” said the Tottenham manager.
“To play as he played showed real maturity and was really happy. He even gave a speech after the game with his man-of-the-match trophy.
“He was so proud and it was a fantastic moment he will always remember.” Shelvey, who now faces a three-match suspension and a club fine, apologised to manager Rafael Benitez and his team-mates in the dressing room after the game.
“The rules are the rules and he made a mistake,” said Benitez.
But Benitez also claimed that a tackle from Tottenham’s Harry Kane that ended Florian Lejeune’s involvement in the game was a worse challenge, although it only merited a yellow card from the referee Andre Marriner.
Paul Dummett was also injured to add to Benitez’s concerns about the quality of his squad after a game that was watched by the club’s owner Mike Ashley, whose lack of transfer spending has infuriated the Spaniard.
“There were a lot of positives, but we know we are in the Premier League and have to do everything really well if you want to win games,” Benitez said.
“All we had going on the pitch was lost because we made one mistake. Jonjo knows he made a mistake and apologised, but we have lost the game.”