Steak and wine are 'tactics' to Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino
LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino is the Premier League manager working farthest from his birthplace, but the Tottenham boss knows where to find home comforts in London. On Wednesday evening, Pochettino -- who was born in Argentina but considers Barcelona home -- treated 50 members of Tottenham's playing and support staff to Spanish steak and Argentine red wine at a Marylebone restaurant.
The club's chairman, Daniel Levy, joined the party but Pochettino insisted on paying the bill. "When I pay, I pay good: good restaurant, good food, good wine," he said. "The restaurant was English, the steak from Spain but Argentine wine, which is the best!"
For Pochettino, the rare night out, which followed Tuesday's 1-0 victory over Barnsley in the Carabao Cup, counted as "tactics," and it was just as important as work at Spurs' North London training complex. The manager is aiming to form strong bonds off the pitch in his new-look squad, so they fight for each other on it.
"Tactical work here in the morning or to go last night and put all the staff, the players and the chairman too in a restaurant -- that is tactics, too," Pochettino explained.
"It is so important, just as it is important to work on the pitch. To know better in between them, to speak in a different way. That creates links between them, emotion. And when you must fight in a competition, there's willingness to help more your teammates and care more for your teammates and care more for the gaffer that pays the bill!"
For Tottenham's five summer signings, the steak and red wine were particularly significant -- not least because two are Argentines. Last year, Vincent Janssen and Victor Wanyama signed in time to be included in the club's preseason trip to Australia, which Pochettino regarded as an important team-bonding exercise. This year, Davinson Sanchez, Paulo Gazzaniga, Juan Foyth, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente each arrived in the final week of the transfer window, missing preseason altogether.
Pochettino explained that Aurier is still adjusting to life in London after arriving from Paris Saint-Germain on transfer deadline day, and the manager was cautious about the right-back's chances of making a Premier League debut at West Ham on Saturday despite his impressive showing in last week's win over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Llorente -- "He's so humble and provides very, very good energy," said Pochettino -- has called for more time to get up to speed after missing preseason at Swansea because of injury. Foyth, a 19-year-old Argentina under-20 international, "needs time to settle in England" according to his manager, despite a solid debut against Barnsley.
Pochettino pointed out that even the very best have to adjust to new surroundings, citing Zinedine Zidane's form after his then-record £46 million move from Juventus to Real Madrid in 2001.
"Now, we only need time. It's only a few weeks that they are involved in the dynamic of the team, the club," he said. "There are different examples in the world -- like Zidane at Real Madrid. He came from Juventus and only after six months he started to perform in the way that he can play and he was really criticised. Only time; we need time.
"We need time for the players that we signed to engage with everyone, know everything. But I think we're strong. I'm so happy with my squad."
The only problem for Pochettino, except for a few minor hangovers on Thursday (the manager explained that teetotal Mousa Dembele, at least, would not be among the suffering) is Tottenham's relentless schedule. After visiting West Ham, they travel to Cyprus on Sunday, a five-hour flight, for a Champions League group match on Tuesday against Apoel, before an away day at high-flying Huddersfield next weekend. Then the vast majority of players will then leave the club for the international break.
"We always try to find the way to stay together out of the training ground because it is so different," Pochettino said. "But it is so difficult because here in England to find a day or night altogether. It's such a busy schedule that we have.
"We play every two to three days and then all are away for international break. Yesterday was a very good day to stay all together outside and laugh and share in a different atmosphere.
"Now, the problem is that when you compete, the competition doesn't understand that you need time, that you need to engage everything. You need time to create a good dynamic. It's so important and we need time to engage everything, to have different alternatives to play and try to win. In the end, that's the principal objective."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.