Spirit of new Spurs embodied by Eric Dier’s tackle, says Mauricio Pochettino

David Hytner on 19 October 2018

Mauricio Pochettino felt Eric Dier’s thunderous tackle on Sergio Ramos during England’s 3-2 victory over Spain was a symbol of everything he has sought to instil in his Tottenham players.

Dier crashed into Ramos in the early running at the Estadio Benito Villamarín on Monday night, taking the ball first – deep inside the Spain penalty area – and was then the man to collect what Pochettino felt was an unjust yellow card.

The Spurs manager, once an uncompromising centre-half, stopped short of saying he loved the physical aspect of the challenge (he obviously did). But he talked up what it said about Dier’s mentality, chiefly his desire to impose himself on big games and against big-name opponents. It is easy to imagine Pochettino asking for more of the same from Dier when his team travel to West Ham on Saturday.

“The tackle was nice, eh?” said Pochettino. “He touched the ball. In England, that’s never a foul. In Europe, it’s different. But to be brave like this – look, Dier is a holding midfielder and he was pressing Sergio Ramos in the penalty area. That is the mentality that, from day one at Spurs, we have tried to translate to the players. I feel proud about that. It’s a fantastic attitude, one that we always need to keep pushing.”

Eric Dier received a yellow card for his tackle on Sergio Ramos but was congratulated by the Spain defender after Monday’s match.
Eric Dier received a yellow card for his tackle on Sergio Ramos but was congratulated by the Spain defender after Monday’s match. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Dier spoke after the game about how Ramos had congratulated him on the challenge. “It’s important we respect all our opponents and Ramos is one of the best of all-time,” Dier said. “But once we start the game, we have to put a marker down and be aggressive. We have to be on the front foot and show nothing is going to intimidate us. That’s just as important as playing good football.”

Pochettino was asked about the significance of the early “reducer” in a match. “The signal that you send to your opponents is important,” he replied. “To say: ‘We are not scared of you. We come here and we want to beat you.’ We can play good or bad but always it’s about the attitude. With different attitudes, sure, the game would be completely different and have different results. With only talent you cannot beat any team. But talent with attitude is everything.”

Dier has been erratic, at times, for Spurs this season, with a low point being his performance in the 2-1 home loss to Liverpool on 15 September. He was left out of the starting XI for the Champions League tie against Barcelona at the beginning of this month, which his team lost 4-2. But he made a difference when he came on as a second-half substitute and after the Spain game, he was compared to his opposite number, Sergio Busquets, by Sam Allardyce, the one-time England manager who claimed that Dier had been the better player on the night.

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Pochettino takes the broader view, just as he does with Tottenham’s season so far. There has been the impression that they have yet to truly fire; that moments of individual quality have sometimes bailed them out. But the Spurs manager can still point out that the club have made their most productive start to a Premier League campaign, with six wins out of eight.“Football is about perception and always the last performance is the perception that stays in our minds,” Pochettino said of Dier’s season. “I try to translate to the players that they need to improve and improve. It’s the same whether you don’t perform well or you play well and get a very good result. Always move on, move on. That’s the idea.”

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