What will your approach be for this game?
We want of course to qualify, that’s the most important thing. But when you in a bad run of results you need victories and I believe what everybody wants in that dressing room is not just to qualify, but to win the match.
In football anything is possible and you always have to be respecting the nature of football and the nature of sport and know anything can happen. But the reality is a 4-1 victory away is very good.
So it’s not about losing 3-0 or 2-0 and qualifying, it’s about qualifying and winning the match. So our approach will be very similar to the first leg. We go there with a strong side.
We go with a bench to help us turn the direction of a game if we need to and at the same time with three or four young players we would love to give the chance to play minutes with the first team, but our first team line up will be very similar to the one that started in Hungary because we want to go strong.
Has Gareth Bale done enough to convince you?
He doesn’t need to convince me of anything. I am totally convinced about everything. It’s not about convincing me, it’s about being ready to play the minutes we all would love him to play. It’s a process. You feel that in matches in the last couple of years. It’s the process. We want him of course to be ready to play every minute of every game.
He is a player with special qualities, you could see against West Ham in the second 45 minutes the positive impact in the quality of the game. He had a cross, he had a couple of assists, he hit the crossbar. He is doing that better and better, but he is not playing 90 minutes, he is not playing every game. We have to manage his evolution. But he has nothing at all to convince me about.
We play Wolfsberger, then we play Burnley, Fulham midweek, Crystal Palace at home and then hopefully we play Europa League again. We play 10 matches – seven plus three – in March.
That’s seven for us at the club plus three for the national team. Our players are going to be on a 10-match run in March which is something absolutely crazy, and Gareth is a special example of a player we need to take care of. I can tell you that at this moment Gareth is playing all the minutes that he can and that we feel are good for his evolution. And what he wants and what we want is in this last part of the season is to play more minutes and more crucial matches than he did.
The stats in this bad run are unprecedented for you in your career, you’re not used to this?
It’s a positive thing that you say I am not used to it and my career is being the opposite of this. That’s a great thing. But I want to know which coach in the end of his career can say everything was blue sky and never a little bit grey or cloudy or even dark. Unless it’s a coach that was always in dominant clubs where the clubs were always the top clubs in countries and then it’s more difficult to have difficult moments but I think just show how beautiful my career has been.
Does this make me happy? No. Does this make me depressed? Not at all. It’s a challenge. I always feel that I work for the clubs, I work for the players, for the supporters of the club. I always feel that I have to give them so much and the fact I’m giving them hard work but not the results is something that of course hurts me and is a great challenge for me because I believe I can give it. I gave it everywhere I have been and I want to do it and I’m more motivated than ever and I believe that at least it is what I feel. I never felt what normally coaches feel when the results are bad.
When the results are bad normally when the results are bad the coach is a lonely man. That’s what we normally are and in this club, in this building I never felt that. Never. I always felt, not just respected of course but always felt supported, that everyone is together in the same boat. By one side nobody is happy but by another side nobody is depressed and I feel positive. Maybe it can look a bit weird for you, losing so many matches and your positive but yes I’m positive. I cannot say I’m happy but I would say I’m not unhappy.
I wake up in the morning and I want to come back to work I arrive in the building and feel the motivation in everyone. I love to train. People is loving training and everyone is working as hard as it’s possible with so many matches and we are positive. We want to play tomorrow, we want to play on Sunday, we want to try to come back as soon as possible to good results and we are positive.
Have you felt the support from your chairman Daniel Levy and what’s relationship like?
My relationship is the same since day one which is a relationship of respect and open communication. Nothing changed in relation to that.
We communicate every day and we respect each other and I believe that we share the feeling, we aren’t happy with the results but that doesn’t create any contradiction with us because we feel both exactly the same.
My work is directly with the players, with the staff, the first team, the medical team, the kitman, analysts, I believe that we share the same feelings which is nobody is happy, nobody is depressed but everybody believes that we will do better and everybody believes that better things are waiting for us.
We have to search for them because positive things don’t arrive on a plate, on a silver plate, I think we did that and we showed that in the second half at West Ham, we were in the search for every possible happiness.
Happiness didn’t want anything with us, but we are going to keep searching, carry on digging, keep working hard and as I keep saying we are much better than this.
Do you feel you owe Daniel Levy as he hired you despite your Chelsea connections? Has that created a special relationship with a greater debt to him?
I don’t know if debt is the right word, but what I feel to Mr Levy is what I feel in every club that I’ve worked at. I want to give happiness to people. Who are the people? The people are the chairman, the owners, or players, fans, everybody connected with the club. I always feel that I am one of them, I work for them and I want to give happiness to those people. That’s always my feeling. It’s never about me, it’s always about us. And I don’t change.
It’s kind of a sense of duty, it’s my duty, it’s my job, it’s my nature as a person. For sure, we are not friends, we don’t share one single minute outside – I’m speaking to you as journalists, not Mr Levy – I’m not your friend, you don’t know me as a person, you just know me as a coach.
But as a person, I’m a little bit the same. I’m always worried with the others, always worried with the people I love, many, many times even with people I don’t love. So I have this sense of wanting to do well with others. That’s what I want to do. That’s what moves me every day, especially with being lucky of being able to win a couple of cups with a couple of clubs and I feel more and more a club man and less and less about me. I want to do it for everyone.
The Carabao Cup final might be used as a test event for the return of fans. Do you have a feeling about that? How good will it be to have fans back?
Yeah. You know, I played Wembley finals full stadium and of course it’s amazing but in this moment I just want to stay in my corner, wait for the ones that have the knowledge and the power to make the right decisions for the country, the right decisions for the world. And as soon as possible to be back with all the good things the world has … people is more important than football so if we have to go to Wembley without fans, we go to Wembley without fans. But we go to Wembley with the fans in our heart and with the determination to bring happiness to people. We know what is to love a club, all of us know that. We all know what it means to people, the success of their club so when we have that final to play, we have to bring them in our hearts and to fight for them because football is about them.
You said after the West Ham game that you had problems you couldn’t resolve yourself. What did you mean by that?
Nothing specific, nothing that probably you think I wanted to say and I didn’t. First of all, a press conference, 3 or 4 interviews, a flash interview, a couple of minutes after games … I sometimes think that we coaches are amazing guys for not to say too many … it’s better I don’t use the words … two many S … you understand me. I think we have to be bright guys and in control of our emotions and not to say the wrong things because it’s never easy, especially after a defeat. And sometimes we say things that can be controversial, we say things that people don’t understand, we can say even really bad things, which was not my case but, for example, this weekend I think one of my colleagues went a bit too far in his words but that’s another story because it’s not Jose Mourinho, that’s not a problem.
In relation to my words, it’s a big frustration to lose matches, especially matches like that one. I prefer to lose playing well than playing bad but when you lose and you play bad, the feeling is just of disappointment and sometimes rage. But when you play so well and you lose, you realise that there are things that are not in your hands. You hit the post twice. That ball, the new ball, I hate that new ball, white and dark blue now, the ball didn’t want to go inside [the net]. I cannot control. Probably the yellow ball will go inside.
We had two posts [hit], we had lots of crosses across the face of the goal, you cannot control. The VAR of course was correct with the disallowed goal. The VAR was correct. But you are waiting for a little bit of luck and the VAR is correct. And the linesman was correct. No, it wasn’t [the break we needed]. You make a mistake, beginning of second-half, boom, a goal. So there are things that you can work a lot, you can fight and you can analyse, but there are things that are out of your control But what can you do if you have things out of your control? Work!
That is why after the game we didn’t go home. We arrived at the training ground and went to analyse the West Ham game so the next session we were ready to analyse it with the players. The next day we analysed the first game against Wolfsberger and you work again and split the groups. Some guys can train, others have to recover and you manage everything.
You speak with everybody and try to work out who is in the best condition with the sports science and the medical guys. We work a lot in this building. And sometimes we feel the frustration. We hit the post, the ball goes outside – you don’t control that. Gareth Bale’s shot… We make a mistake, they go down there and score. There is not a mistake that we make defensively when there is not a goal. We are in this moment when it looks like one mistake, you lose a goal; you do so well, but you don’t score.
Sometimes there are moments of frustration and post-match interviews are the perfect place not to say the right things or to leave some things out. Like today, in a pre-match press conference, everything that you say you can follow word by word, because we are calm with no pressure and no adrenaline. But after matches, it is not easy for us.
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You keep rotating your centre-backs, has the amount of fixtures made it difficult to play the two that you see as your best pairing consistently?
I think we’ve played 40 matches this season, plus some national team matches that players also had.
It’s impossible to play the same players all the time. Of course we have different competitions and of course we tried to have some fresh players for different matches.
Of course when there is no perfection in the collective performances sometimes you try to provide some stability but other times you need to rotate some players.
For example Toby didn’t play on Sunday, he plays tomorrow. That’s quite an obvious situation.
When you were young could you have coped with what has gone on at Spurs as well as you are coping? Are you better equipped to be successful?
Thank god I am not the manager I was! Thank god! Because if there is no evolution in us I also want to believe that to think you are a better journalist today than you were 10 years ago or so. Thank god! Probably I agree with you, I would not be as calm and confident and in control of my emotions because during my career I had sometimes problems not in relation to results.
As you know I did not have many bad runs of results. But with day to day problems that happen many times in clubs with all of us I reacted previously in a much more emotional way and instead of helping myself and the ones around me I was even creating a kind of conflict situation that I had previously. So just to give you an example. I left Chelsea as a champion. So maybe your age and experience as a person and journalist makes you realise that we people with more experienced, we are better equipped to cope with negative moments.
I am calm. I am in control of my emotions and I can not switch on and switch off, I am happy and unhappy. My nature does not change. I lose a game and of course I am not happy. But maturity hopefully helps. I feel very confident and I believe we are going to improve and I believe that I will be in Tottenham’s history for the good reasons and not for the bad reasons.