LONDON — Mauricio Pochettino hailed the way his Tottenham team has responded to last month’s one-sided defeat at Manchester City after they thrashed Everton 4-0 on Saturday.
Runaway league-leaders City underlined their Premier League dominance by hammering last season’s runners-up 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Dec. 16, to move 21 points clear of Pochettino’s side.
Since then, Spurs have won five out of six games, only failing to beat West Ham in a frustrating 1-1 draw, and Saturday’s victory over the Toffees moved them level with fourth-place Liverpool, who host City on Sunday.
Pochettino suggested that the result at City was a turning point, and praised the character of the squad for responding.
“Manchester City was a tough defeat,” Pochettino said. “They were so clinical. The game wasn’t bad [for us], only that they were and are in an amazing moment. It was so important to work hard, try to keep going and show we can win games and fight for big things.
“Always the character is so important when you receive this type of defeat — you have to stand up and start to win games. I’m so pleased with the character [of the squad].”
Pochettino added of the thrashing at Eastlands: “Sometimes the circumstances in which you play are not the best. Manchester City is keeping consistency, their level in the last six or seven months. They are doing so well.
“If you want to win big things — the Premier League, the Champions League — that is our challenge [too]. All that we showed today, we must [show] in every game we play, every week. That is our challenge, our objective. It’s tough to be at this type of level for a long period.”
Harry Kane scored two second-half goals to surpass Teddy Sheringham as Spurs’ all-time leading Premier League marksmen on 98 and Pochettino said 2017’s top goal scorer in elite European football would only continue to break records.
“He’s fantastic. He deserves all the credit and a lot of praise — I congratulate him one more time,” Pochettino said of Kane, who needs 15 goals in 15 games to finish as the top-scorer ever in a Premier League season.
“Wow, a lot of numbers in my head! He can do everything because of his mentality, how he is as a professional. He can achieve all he wishes and wants.
“He’s unbelievable, the way he’s able to work, his willingness. He’s always trying to improve, improve, improve, and score goals for the team. His mentality is collective and that’s so important. He scores but his mentality is to help and to work for the team.
“That makes him a special player. Not only talented but in his mind he tries to help ad playing collectively. His effort is for the team.”
Kane’s first goal came after Son Heung-Min had turned Jonjoe Kenny sublimely and crossed, and the South Korean made it 1-0 win a tap-in, scoring for a fifth consecutive league game before playing a part in Christian Eriksen’s brilliant fourth.
“It was a great performance [from Son],” Pochettino said. “Not only today, but for one, two, three months we’re talking about Sonny’s performances. He’s more mature than last season. His performances are helping a lot. Today, everyone can see he’s more reliable, has more belief, more confidence in every game. It’s fantastic. This season he’s doing so, so well.
“Of course, we give him credit he deserves. He’s very important player for us. Of course, like always when you play next to a player like Harry Kane, who is breaking records every week, it’s difficult to focus on another. Us, as a coaching staff, we are always going to give him the credit he deserves. Sonny deserves a lot of credit for Tottenham.
“We work hard, all the staff — us, sports science, medical — to try to help the players. For me, he deserves the credit. It’s him. We work, we talk but in the end, it’s always the talent and the belief of the player, to show all they have inside, their talent. Of course, we talk a lot but he deserves the credit.”
Dan is ESPN FC’s Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.