London: Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino admits he still needs forward reinforcements after watching his team blow a two-goal lead in their frustrating 2-2 draw against Stoke.
Pochettino played down the effect on Saturday’s match of his decision to take off Harry Kane before Stoke began their comeback, but he agreed the England forward, who had such a memorable 2014-15 campaign, is below par after spending part of the close-season playing for the England under-21 squad in the European Championships.
The need to add another specialist forward to Pochettino’s squad was made more urgent by the club’s decision to allow Spanish forward Roberto Soldado to leave for Villarreal this week.
Although Cameroon forward Clinton N’Jie has completed his move from Lyon, Pochettino’s repeated description of the 22-year-old as ‘versatile’ suggests that he is not viewed as a like-for-like alternative to Kane as a central striker.
“Harry was tired,” Pochettino said, later briefing media that he had also suffered from cramp. “He came late to pre-season. But that’s normal.
“He’s doing better but he needs time to arrive in peak condition. But we knew that before. We spoke about it last season and you can see the consequence now.
“70 minutes was enough for him and we didn’t want to take risks with his fitness.”
Asked if Kane could play two games for England in next month’s international break, Pochettino added: “I don’t know. That is Roy Hodgson’s problem.”
By the time the England games are played in September, Pochettino hopes to have added that elusive extra forward.
“Clinton can play in different positions and he can play centrally, but I think we still need another forward,” Pochettino said.
“Yes, we need to add some more players to the squad, but it’s not a worry; we deserved to win against Stoke.
“It wasn’t a problem of strikers, it was our defensive play. It’s early in the season, but the performance in the first half, for the first 70 minutes, was good.
“Until the penalty it was clear that we dominated. Maybe we need to be more consistent in our defensive work and, at 2-0 up at home, we need to manage things better.”
Pochettino pinpointed the defending of crosses, of which Stoke sent in a barrage in the final 20 minutes, pulling a goal back through Marko Arnautovic’s penalty and finally equalising when Mame Biram Diouf nodded home from Stephen Ireland’s centre.
“We conceded a lot of crosses and they got some chances and we need to improve in this area,” he said.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes was delighted with his team’s comeback after Eric Dier’s header and Nacer Chadli’s volley had apparently put Tottenham in charge.
Hughes is also pleased that team spirit was undiluted by the addition of new players including Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri, who was unable to make his debut at Tottenham, serving the final match of a suspension picked up with Inter Milan.
“We’ve got a really good group,” he said. “The guys who have come in have really bought into it.
“They are good players, talented boys but really good characters as well, which is important for our group.
“We did due diligence on them and felt they were the right people to bring to the club. We weren’t surprised and we didn’t expect to be.”
Hughes singled Ireland out for praise after he turned the game as a substitute.
“Stephen knows how highly I value him. It’s fair to say I don’t show it as much as I probably should do in terms of giving him appearances.
“I always feel I disappoint him too often for the ability that he has.”