Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino urged his players to keep going after they moved back into the top four with a 1-0 win over Arsenal in the North London derby at Wembley.
Harry Kane’s 49th-minute header proved the winner as Spurs moved into third place, above Chelsea and seven points clear of their neighbours.
The result followed a win against Manchester United and last weekend’s draw at Liverpool, leaving Spurs with seven points from nine against three of their closest rivals ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 first leg at Juventus.
“We are doing a fantastic job,” Pochettino said afterwards. “I’m so pleased because this is a key period when you have to fight the battles, you need to fight for the top four and the three points. We are in the battle.
“Then comes the Champions League, a competition that excites our fans and us. Always, you dream of playing in these type of games. We arrive in a very good moment.
“I think it’s important for the belief of the team, for the confidence. You know very well that football is about trust, confidence and belief. A clean sheet against United and again here today, I think we deserved more against Liverpool but we took the draw.
“We feel very proud. The performance was amazing, fantastic. We played amazing football, we created a lot of chances. I’m very pleased with the players and they deserved full credit. I thought they were fantastic. I want to congratulate them and keep going.”
Kane’s goal was his seventh in Premier League North London derbies and only Emmanuel Adebayor, who played for both clubs, has more in the fixture with nine.
“Of course Harry is one of the best. In the last three years, I have repeated that he is one of the best strikers in the world,” Pochettino said. “Sometimes it’s because you believe he’s my player and I try to praise him, no?
“I tell you again because in our experience of football he is one of the best, because he deserves that, to be one of the best. It’s so good to have him in our side.”
Pochettino also hailed Mousa Dembele, who controlled midfield after impressing against United and Liverpool.
“Last season he played so well, and then at the end of the season he suffered a problem in his ankle, struggled during preseason but now is feeling good,” he added.
“The problem is about his fitness, no? Because about his quality, there is no doubt … for me he is a genius, and unbelievable player. But we must be careful about his fitness, it is good and he can train, and he can make this type of performance because he is a great, talented player.”
But Pochettino was not impressed with a question about why he had left Toby Alderweireld, who returned from a three-month injury absence against Newport in midweek, out of the squad, with Davinson Sanchez partnering Jan Vertonghen at centre-half.
“After the game I need to explain this? You think I need to explain why I picked one or another? Why? I need to pick 11 players,” he said.
“If I explain why I don’t play Alderweireld, I need to explain why for Danny Rose, [Victor] Wanyama, [Fernando] Llorente, Michel Vorm, Harry Winks.
“The reason is that I believe the 11 players that played today were the best to win. We won — if we lose, maybe I accept the question, because I was wrong in my selection. But after three points!
“I don’t take like a criticism, it is your opinion. He played like a different player against Newport, and the decision was to be out of the squad.”
He said Spurs chairman Daniel Levy “pays for me to make decisions, not to make the people happy.”