Mauricio Pochettino said Chelsea’s victory at Tottenham on Monday proved he has matured as a manager in the years since his first spell in England.
A frenetic 4-1 win in north London came amid two red cards for the hosts as emotions threatened to spill over in a manner reminiscent of the so-called ‘Battle of Stamford Bridge’, when Pochettino’s Spurs lost their discipline and a two-goal lead to concede the 2015-16 Premier League title.
After that game, which confirmed Leicester as champions, Pochettino was criticised for allowing his players to lose control of the match and let slip the chance of claiming a first league title since 1961.
Yet on Monday it was his former side whose discipline failed them, with Spurs losing Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie either side of half-time before Chelsea capitalised with a late hat-trick from striker Nicolas Jackson to seal a third straight away win in the league.
Pochettino has previously said he believes he is calmer now than when he was appointed at Southampton in 2013, and that composure was evident amongst his players as they kept their heads on a wild night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“I learned a lot from the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ seven years ago,” he said ahead of his side’s home meeting with Manchester City on Sunday.
“I got criticised a lot after this game. Too many people said it was may fault because I didn’t give or teach the players how to behave and to control emotion in a game like this. I learned a lot.
“What I can say is the type of game (on Monday) is about tactics, it’s about form, it’s about the approach of the game and how you prepare. Also, it’s about how you control emotions.
“One thing we can say my players managed really well is the control of emotions. We played 10-12 minutes not in a good way, not how we wanted. When we conceded the goal it was a big hit for us, we were in shock.
“After this moment we started to control the game. At 11 v 11 we created chances, had a goal disallowed. Then we forced them to make mistakes. We played 120 minutes. I think we deserved to win. It was crazy but fair.”
The game was notable for its total of 21 added minutes after there were nine VAR checks, which led to both red cards being shown as well as a penalty for Chelsea and five disallowed goals.
Pochettino defended the role of the video referee and said that Spurs could have no complaints about the result.
“Tell me one (VAR) decision that was not fair,” he said. “There was even I think a few decisions more when Tottenham were lucky. You cannot say VAR was (unfair) for us. When you watch the game again, Tottenham were very lucky to finish with only two less than us.
“When there is emotion on the pitch, it’s difficult to control from the outside (as a coach). I was guilty seven years ago. But Ange (Postecoglou) wasn’t guilty (on Monday).
“I learned. I watched the game again. It’s important to see how the players keep calm in a tough moment and to force (Tottenham) to make a mistake, then to win the game. That was the option.”
Chelsea will be looking for their fourth win in six games in the league when they face Pep Guardiola’s champions on Sunday.
Pochettino added: “Chelsea are never underdogs. The feeling is always that you are Chelsea. When you say Chelsea, it’s impossible (to feel the underdog). The history is there. We cannot go and say we are the victim of the day. We need to try to be protagonists with our personality, with our character.
“We went to Tottenham and finished the game 4-1. It shows that we have character and talent to compete and to fight with the best clubs in England. Now it’s about building that confidence that for sure will help us to be more competitive.”