Mauricio Pochettino admits he wanted to “kill all” of his Tottenham players following the team’s end of season collapse last term.
Spurs were hammered 5-1 at Newcastle on the final day of the campaign, which saw them finish third in the Premier League table – below arch rivals Arsenal – but Pochettino never had the chance to reprimand his players in May as much of the squad quickly left for Euro 2016.
Instead, the Argentinian was left to stew on the defeat and it was only after the club’s pre-season tour of Australia, when the whole squad reunited, that Pochettino was able to vent his frustration.
“I just told them, ‘If I have the opportunity to kill you then I kill everyone’,” Pochettino said.
“I wanted to kill all of them. And I did not have the opportunity to kill them. I kill myself too.”
Tottenham’s young and hungry players were a key asset in the team’s surprise title challenge, but their lack of experience appeared to cost them when the pressure really mounted.
Spurs have so far resisted the temptation to add seniority in terms of signings – Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen are 25 and 22, respectively – but Pochettino hopes valuable lessons have been learned.
“What did they do wrong? A lot of things,” Pochettino said.
“Football is tactical, physical, technical, but it is also mental. More mental than many years ago.
“We need to know how to improve our mental state. That is very, very important. I think this was key in the last few games in last season.
“To move on the team, to achieve another level, it is here that we need to improve.”
Continuity could prove Tottenham’s trump card over their much-reformed rivals, but Pochettino has been left disappointed by the departure of the club’s head of recruitment Paul Mitchell.
Mitchell was lured to White Hart Lane from Pochettino’s former side Southampton in 2014 and arrived with a reputation as one of the game’s sharpest spotters of talent.
The 34-year-old will remain in his post until a departure date is agreed, but his exit comes as a blow to Spurs ahead of their season opener against Everton on Saturday and with three weeks still left of the transfer window.
“I feel very disappointed with his decision. It’s his personal choice,” Pochettino said.
“You know that we have a relationship from Southampton. I’m very disappointed but when someone takes a decision and it’s personal, what can I do?
“He’s still working with us and we still need to finish the three weeks working together and do the best business for the club.”
Tottenham moved early to snap up Wanyama and Janssen, who will provide cover for the suspended Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane respectively, but Pochettino is still keen to complete further business this summer.
“Yes, maybe yes. We are open to add one or two players, or maybe no-one,” the 44-year-old said.
“If we have the possibility to sign some players that can improve us, then we are open.
“But I think it’s very difficult to find players with this profile because we already have very good players and because of the way we work and our philosophy.”
Tottenham have so far forked out less than £30million – a figure that pales in comparison to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, with United’s deal to sign Paul Pogba almost three times that amount alone.
Pochettino believes his rivals’ readiness to splash the cash is a sign of desperation.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “When you spend a lot of money, it’s because you are worried about your squad and desperate to improve it.
“I’m very happy with my players and because of that I’m very quiet and relaxed. I trust my squad 100 per cent.”
Dembele’s suspension means Wanyama could make his debut at Goodison Park while Jan Vertonghen is fit, despite injuring his ankle ligaments while playing for Belgium at Euro 2016.