(Reuters) – Mauricio Pochettino made the sort of history that Tottenham fans revel in on Saturday when he beat former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to a treasured Premier League landmark.
Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Burnley, courtesy of Christian Eriksen’s injury-time goal, was Pochettino’s 100th league win from 169 games — 10 fewer than Wenger required to reach his century.
While Arsenal fans might point to last month’s 4-2 league win over their rivals — or next week’s League Cup quarter-final between the teams — as of greater significance, the Argentine will take some satisfaction from trumping his old rival, particularly in the week he also secured Spurs’ qualification for the Champions League knockout phase.
Yet, as the minutes ticked down in miserable conditions at Wembley, Pochettino looked anything but a winner as he peeked out from under his bobble hat, urging his side forward for one last charge.
His entreaties worked because substitute Eriksen finally beat the admirable Joe Hart to score the solitary goal that leaves Spurs three points adrift of second-placed Liverpool, who play Manchester United on Sunday.
For all the criticism that Pochettino tinkers with his team too much, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that he is the luckiest of generals, a man whose tweaks and hunches come off more often than not.
Against Burnley, he gave 18-year-old Oliver Skipp his first Premier League start in midfield and asked Ben Davies to fill in at centre half. In bringing on Eriksen for Lucas Moura in the 65th minute he made the change that ultimately proved decisive as Spurs again showed the resilience that is typifying their season.
“I am happy because it is not easy to play every three days, many players are out,” said Pochettino.
“Oliver Skipp made his debut, it is fantastic because to keep going in difficult circumstances pleases me and the way we are competing this season pleases me.”
Despite enjoying 70 percent of possession, Spurs struggled to break down a resilient Burnley, who looked much more like the side who prospered last season than the one that has struggled this term.
“After the Barcelona game and qualifying for the next stage of the Champions League it is difficult to find the way to perform like this,” said Pochettino.
“Today I congratulate my players’ effort and the 50,000 fans. It was a late victory but so important for us.
“The character to always push to the end shows great belief and faith in the way we play. That pleases me the most.”
The big games keep on coming and on Wednesday it is Arsenal again. Pochettino will need no reminding that to be really considered on a par with Wenger, he needs to win a trophy.
The League Cup might be a good place to start.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson; editing by Clare Fallon)