Tottenham's Premier League title hopes next season rest on strong start - Mauricio Pochettino

LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham must make a fast start next season if they are to challenge Manchester City and their other top-six rivals for the Premier League title.

For the third year running, Pochettino's side have been the best team in the league since the turn of the year and their 14-game unbeaten run was ended on Saturday by City, who were crowned as champions after Manchester United's shock defeat to West Brom on Sunday.

But Spurs dropped seven points in their first three home games of this season and they were 21 points behind City after a 4-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium in mid-December following another sluggish autumn.

In 2015-16, Spurs were the only serious challengers to champions Leicester but they trailed them from the opening day of the campaign, while they also played catch-up to Chelsea last season on the way to a second-place finish.

"We feel very disappointed because [on Saturday] we lost to one of the best teams in Europe, and surely the best team in England," Pochettino said. "That's part of our ambition, how we're thinking now -- we believe were capable of beating any team. That is good. But it's not easy to be consistent through the whole season.

"The challenge for us in the next few years [is] to be consistent, try to start the season better. Manchester City started the season really well -- we started with a lot of problems. We were very unstable in the way we started the season."

Spurs made all five of their summer signings in the final week of the summer transfer window, and Pochettino continued: "If we want to win and challenge for big things, we need to start from day one of preseason in a different way.

"That is so important to improve. If you see how we start the last three seasons. Always, with different problems, the season starts after four, five, six, 10 games before we start to compete at the level that we want. That's a thing to improve, we are going to be focused and try to start better than the previous season."

Pochettino congratulated City on their title win, the club's first under Pep Guardiola.

"I want to congratulate Pep Guardiola, all of the coaching staff, the [Man City] players -- I think they deserved the title," he added. "They are the best team in the Premier League and that is why I want to congratulate them. In football, after the whole season when you are the most consistent team, you have the capacity to win. I think they were the best team.

"Many things have impressed me, like last season was Chelsea and the season before Leicester, to win the title in the Premier League you need to be the best and do what you need to do, be consistent, competitive and play good football."

Spurs are now locked in a three-way battle for second place with Manchester United and Liverpool, and they can move a point behind United with a win at Brighton on Tuesday.

Pochettino said Toby Alderweireld, who has not featured in the league since October after a hamstring injury, will return to matchday squad, and he defended captain Hugo Lloris, after costly mistakes by the goalkeeper in the last three league games.

"For me Hugo Lloris is doing fantastic, for me he is one of the best keepers in the world and for me there is no doubt about him," the Spurs manager said. "Toby is going to be involved in the squad and then on Friday, I will decide if he is going to play or not."

Spurs will be without Danny Rose (calf) and Harry Winks, who is continuing to have treatment on an ankle problem at a medical facility in Qatar, for the trip to the Amex Stadium.