Mauricio Pochettino is happy to assume the role of father figure to his “naughty” Tottenham side who continue to come of age as the title race approaches its final examination.
Spurs golden child Dele Alli appeared to throw the ball straight into Patrick van Aanholt’s face during an incident at half-time, perhaps frustrated after the Dutchman left him for dead to fire Sam Allardyce’s side into an undeserved 40th-minute lead.
The advantage lasted just 91 seconds, however, until Christian Eriksen’s bizarre equaliser, but Alli might not have forgotten when the sides headed in for the break.
Pochettino did not see what happened but suggested that a nasty streak is no bad thing when it comes to holding your own in a Premier League title race.
“He’s very young,” the Argentinean said. “He needs to learn a lot. It’s a little bit naughty. He’s a little bit naughty. I like how he is.
“I like how he is because you need to be a little bit naughty when you play football. It’s true that he needs to learn.
“Sometimes you need to be hard with him, sometimes you need to be friendly and give love. It’s like your son. Sometimes you need to give love, sometimes you need to be hard with him.
“I will show and explain that it is better if he reacted a different way.”
The manner in which Spurs responded to Sunderland’s opener received top marks from the manager.
Within two minutes of Van Aanholt beating Hugo Lloris, Eriksen’s mishit shot, after Jordan Pickford had saved Harry Kane’s effort, somehow bounced into the roof of the net via a horrified Lee Cattermole.
Pickford, making his Premier League debut, was Sunderland’s best player despite conceding four.
It did not help that in front of him 59th-minute substitute Jan Kirchhoff, signed this month from Bayern Munich, was having the worst Premier League debut in memory.
Within a minute of his introduction, Sunderland were behind when Mousa Dembele’s low effort crept inside Pickford’s left-hand post.
Frankfurter Kirchhoff was not to blame for that one but the last two had his fingerprints all over them.
First he lazily trotted out to close down Eriksen only to deflect the Dane’s shot up and over his goalkeeper in the 67th minute.
Then he needlessly clattered into Danny Rose to concede a late penalty.
Although Eriksen was on a hat-trick, Harry Kane made no mistake from 12 yards but it was the striker’s only real contribution of a tired-looking performance.
Pochettino said: “Will I rest him? It depends. We need to assess and analyse every player.
“Some players are fresh and maybe can repeat. Some are tired and we need to give them an opportunity to rest.
“We believe in all the squad. If you want to achieve something important at the end of the season, every single player needs to be involved. They need to feel like they are an important part of the team.”
Lloris 6; Trippier 7, Vertonghen 7, Alderweireld 6, Rose 6; Dier 6, Dembele 7 (Carroll 80; 6); Lamela 6 (Onomah 73; 6), Alli 6, Eriksen 8; Kane 7 (Son 88; 6).
Subs not used:
Vorm, Chadli, Wimmer, Davies.
Pickford 8; Jones 6, O’Shea 6, Brown 5, Van Aanholt 7; Cattermole 5 (Rodwell 53; 6), M’Vila 6; Johnson 6, Lens 6 (Watmore 76; 6), Graham 5 (Kirchhoff 3; 59); Defoe 6.
Subs not used:
Borini, Coates, Mannone, Fletcher.
Mike Dean 7.
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