Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham are still recovering from a demanding summer as they look to hit top form in the Premier League.
Spurs are unbeaten in the league ahead of Sunday’s game at home to Sunderland but Pochettino is far from satisfied with his side’s start.
The Argentinian criticised his players’ attitude during their Champions League defeat to Monaco on Wednesday – though he was at least partly to blame – and even said he was unhappy with the 4-0 win at Stoke last weekend.
Tottenham’s summer preparations were heavily affected by Euro 2016, with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Hugo Lloris all involved in France. We did suggest in July that Pochettino might struggle to lift players who struggled in France.
It meant Kevin Wimmer was Spurs’ only Euro 2016 player to go on their pre-season tour to Australia and Pochettino feels his squad are still adjusting.
“It was difficult because of the Euros, they come late, we were in Australia and some players started to play with only 10 days’ or 14 days’ training,” Pochettino said.
“It is difficult to understand why in every game we have some period in the first half that is difficult to get the pace of the game and to manage and handle the game like we normally used to do.
“And then in the second half it is like we need that from the manager and the staff to wake up and say, ‘This is the reality’, we need to change and then say, ‘Now yes we are going to do our job’.
“Maybe it is because the pre-season was difficult and all that happened in the summer, maybe now we are in a process to settle all the pieces.”
Wimmer has been conspicuous in his absence in recent weeks, despite signing a new five-year contract in July.
The Austrian was impressive last season when covering for the injured Vertonghen but Pochettino has preferred 18-year-old Cameron Carter-Vickers for his bench so far this term.
“If you watch again the game against Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan in pre-season, I think that maybe he deserves to play in the starting 11,” Pochettino said of the youngster.
“He can give to the team better quality than another player. All my decisions are because I think a player can give more things than another player. It’s for that that I picked him on the bench.
“Kevin arrived late on the pre-season, was injured remember, he didn’t play in Australia, and Cameron did very well.
“You can watch the games, and if he deserves to be on the bench, then why not? Because he is young? It’s about performance.”
Tottenham return to White Hart Lane this weekend, looking to extend an unbeaten record against Sunderland that stretches back to April 2010.
Pochettino, however, said he may rotate his starting line-up after admitting Wednesday’s effort against Monaco could have an effect.
“All season it’s difficult to play and when you play in the Champions League you expend a lot of energy,” Pochettino said.
“Maybe that for us is new, to handle playing Wednesday and Saturday or Sunday. In the last two seasons we always rotate a lot the squad when we play in the middle of the week in the Europa League.
“It is a new experience for us to learn and try to get a good result.”