Mauricio Pochettino was at a loss to explain Tottenham’s Europa League defeat to KAA Gent but he admitted his team are in a “bad period.”
Jeremy Perbet’s second-half goal gave the Belgian side a deserved 1-0 victory in the round-of-32 first leg, leaving Tottenham with one win in four matches.
They play the return leg at Wembley Stadium next Thursday, needing a first goal from open play since the 4-3 win against League Two Wycombe Wanderers on Jan. 28 to progress.
“That is only the first leg and the tie is open. It was an even game from the beginning. The second half I think we were better, we started better and changed the formation to find a solution and create more chances and created a clear chance to score,” Pochettino told a postmatch news conference.
“Then with the first chance we conceded, they scored and we lost the game. It wasn’t our best performance but the attitude was good and the team tried to win the game. We fought, but it’s true that it wasn’t our best.
“I don’t know if it’s about confidence because until Liverpool we came from 11 games unbeaten. I don’t think it’s about confidence — it’s not. I think maybe we were wrong with our judgement today and against Liverpool.
“Gent, from the beginning, were super motivated to play against us. I think we coped with that motivation and it’s true it was a difficult game because Gent in the Europa League showed a very good performance,” the Spurs manager continued.
“We knew that before. But the game was always under control. The second half disappointed us that we were better and we created a chance when in the first half it was difficult to create a chance.
“It was our best period when we conceded a goal. That is football. We start to try to push and gave them counter-attacks.
“We cannot be worried about the result today or the trust of the team. I think the attitude was good. I think we need to go to Wembley and try to make it our home, feel good, put pressure on Gent and try to win the game.
“That is the reality and sometimes things happen, good and bad. We are now in a bad period and I hope that on Sunday we break that negative run.”
Before the match, Pochettino said winning a trophy would help to instil a “winning mentality” in his squad, but the result dealt a blow to Spurs’ hopes of their first silverware since the 2008 League Cup.
They play at Fulham in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday with Harry Kane a doubt after picking up a knee injury, before a league match against Stoke City on Sunday week.
“I think we need to assess some players. We need to assess Harry Kane, he got a knock on his knee,” Pochettino said.
“A different player maybe, we need to refresh the team. In the end it is Tottenham that will play Fulham on Sunday, it’s not about the name of the player. It’s sure that we will put out a team with the aim to win and we will compete.”
Gent manager Hein Vanhaezebrouck — celebrating his 53rd birthday — said: “I like White Hart Lane. I was there as a young guy also, watching the Tottenham games.
“For me, it was one of the better playing football teams in England, going back 20 or 30 years when they were already playing European style. But going to Wembley is mythical. That history in that stadium… I was there as a pundit for television on the cup final, so it will be nice to play a game there.
“The most important thing for us was to make it a game. Avoid losing 4-0. That can happen for the best. We saw it this week. But now we can really make a game of it. We made the return game a very interesting game next week.”