Tottenham players are not machines, insists Mauricio Pochettino after loss
LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham's 1-0 defeat to West Ham was an "exception," as Spurs prepare for Arsenal's visit to White Hart Lane in one of the biggest North London derbies in history.
Wednesday's defeat left Spurs second in the table, three points behind Leicester and three ahead of their North London neighbours, but their title credentials have been called into question following a uncharacteristically poor display at Upton Park.
The Hammers went ahead through Michail Antonio's seventh-minute header and were unfortunate not to extend their lead before half-time. Spurs rallied after the break but West Ham were deserved winners.
Although Arsenal lost to Swansea on Wednesday -- their third consecutive defeat in all competitions -- Spurs will have to be far better to beat their rivals, knowing a victory could all but end the Gunners' title hopes, particularly if Leicester win at Watford.
Pochettino is confident his side will be back to their best on Saturday and reminded Tottenham's critics that his players are only human.
"It's difficult to explain. Sometimes you miss the same pass, one day you miss your teammate ... sometimes it happens. They're not robots. They are not machines. We have the right attitude. I think that we fight and sometimes this happens in football. They are not machines," the Spurs head-coach told a news conference on Thursday.
"For me it was an exception. When we analysed the game this morning, we felt happier. Last night the feeling was that we missed some passes. We were not playing the normal way that we play -- properly. Sometimes we conceded some chances.
"There was a lot of factors where the team feel bad or I feel bad after the game. But today I am happy because the team showed that they want to fight. They say that you know when you don't play well. The team was tough for the opponent."
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic admitted that Spurs' annual visit is "always the game of the season" for West Ham and Wednesday's match had added significance because it was the last meeting of the London rivals at Upton Park, before the Hammers move to the Olympic Stadium next season.
Tottenham's every touch was greeted by loud jeers by a full-capacity Upton Park but Pochettino says the intense atmosphere was not one of the factors behind his team's defeat.
"No, no, no -- it's not about that," he said.
"It's true that we have a lack of aggressivity in the last third, and this was the problem. But in the second-half, we played better and we created some chances to go level but it was difficult. Sometimes, this happens.
"The whole season, we play a lot of games and sometimes it's difficult to keep the same level, and be clinical or create the chances that we created against Swansea. We had 34 attempts against Swansea, and Swansea last night won against Arsenal. The Premier League is a very tough competition."
Pochettino also disagreed with the assertion that West Ham's tactics -- which included pushing their front three of Antonio, Dimitri Payet and Emmanuel Emenike high up the pitch -- stopped Tottenham from playing their usual game, adding: "I don't agree. I don't think they stopped us.
"We were the problem, not West Ham. Sorry, I don't agree. I think we have a lot of special players and maybe we lacked sharpness in the key pass and to manage better the ball but if we analysed all together the game, maybe you will agree with me."
After facing Arsenal, Spurs travel to Germany for next week's Europa League last-16 first leg against Borussia Dortmund, before travelling to Villa Park on Sunday for another crucial league game.
Pochettino is confident he has the squad to cope and says he will pick next week's teams based on the condition of the players.
"Always, in every game, you try to pick the best players to try to win and I think you know we need to look after the players and be aware of their fitness level.
"Sometimes during the season, you have players that are ill, or are not with all the energy, or are more tired than the others and sometimes you need to decide and to pick the right players for every game, to have the energy and try to win."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.