Tag Archives: Mauricio Pochettino

Mourinho is a big gamble by Spurs – but one worth taking

In a small corner of the Johan Cruijff Arena, the Tottenham fans are blasting out their famous Mauricio Pochettino chant. Lucas Moura has just scored a 96th minute winner against Ajax to send them to a first-ever Champions League final, following one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of the competition. It feels like a culmination of all the Argentinian’s hard work – he has transformed the club into realistic contenders.

Had someone told you that night that Jose Mourinho would become Tottenham manager by the end of the year, you would have laughed at them. But just 19 games later, with Spurs languishing in 14th position in the Premier League, that is exactly what has transpired.

Despite a horrific run of form which has left them closer to the relegation zone than the top four, Pochettino’s sacking still sent shockwaves through the football world.

He is undoubtedly one of the world’s top coaches and has already been linked with several high-profile jobs. Not many would argue against him finding a job at a club bigger than Spurs before the end of the season.

It is easy to forget that the club made the top four just twice in the Premier League era before Pochettino’s arrival. He has made Champions League football the norm at White Hart Lane, all whilst operating on a shoestring budget relative to many of their rivals.

He also built a special rapport with the fans, as scenes such as those following their dramatic win over Ajax demonstrate, when the Argentine cried tears of joy amid the celebrations.

Demolished

But in football there is no room for sentiment; chairman Daniel Levy had to act on what he felt was best for the long-term future of the club.

In truth, Pochettino’s downfall began well before their historic Champions League run. Tottenham have not won away in the league since January – and even that came in injury time against relegated Fulham.

They have earned just 25 points from their last 24 games, and have won just three league games this season. They were also demolished 7-2 at home by Bayern Munich and knocked out of the Carabao Cup on penalties by Colchester.

There had been doubts for several months surrounding Pochettino’s long-term future, and a feeling that he would jump ship the moment a bigger job came his way. He has been growing increasingly frustrated with the club’s lack of willingness to spend big in the transfer market; they didn’t make a single signing last season.


“In Mourinho, Tottenham have a man who knows how to win”

Sacking arguably one of their greatest ever managers so early in the season may have seemed a rash decision by Levy had he not had a proven winner ready to take over.

In Mourinho, Tottenham have a man who knows how to win. Not just football matches, but trophies, something Pochettino was unable to deliver during his five years in charge.

The contrast between the two could not be greater. One actively seeks to bring through youth, looking to improve individuals rather than replace those who may be struggling, and build a team over a number of years.

The other is a winning machine, who will stop at nothing to achieve success, regularly looking to the transfer market to solve problems.

Turbulent

On the face of it, Mourinho does not seem the perfect fit for the North London club. One of the main reasons’ thing turned sour for him at Manchester United was over the hierarchy’s failure to deliver his transfer targets. Levy will need to dip his hand into his pocket far more often that he has previously in order to satisfy the Portuguese’s wishes.

Levy was not put off by his bitter Old Trafford exit, where he was sacked after a turbulent last six months at the helm. His second-place finish the previous season looks impressive now, and he managed to win two trophies during his tenure, but fell out with many during the process, most notably Paul Pogba.


There is hope that Mourinho will be able to convince several big names to remain at the club

Mourinho often feels like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode as happened in his third season at both Chelsea and United. However, he knows this is potentially his last chance in English football, so will surely come into it with a different, more measured approach.

The three-time Premier League winner is not known for undertaking rebuild jobs, but that’s exactly what he faces in North London. Three key players – Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen are all out of contract at the end of the season, while others such as Serge Aurier, Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama have been offered around Europe with little success.

It shows the mismanagement of the club that Eriksen, who was dead set on leaving following the defeat in Madrid, wasn’t sold and could instead leave the club for free next summer.

There is hope, though, that Mourinho will be able to convince several big names to remain. Surely at least one of the out-of-contract trio could be persuaded to sign a new deal, but even if this happens, there will still be a considerable rebuild needed.

Keeping Spurs talisman Harry Kane will be a priority for the new manager. His social media tribute to the departing Pochettino showed how strong the bond was between the two. But it is likely the future of his star man was on Levy’s mind when he decided to opt for Jose – if anyone can convince him to stay, he can.

Levy has made a tough decision, but the right decision. Mourinho is a gamble, but one worth taking. Expectations are far lower at Tottenham than any of his previous clubs. Jose has won 10 trophies since Spurs last lifted silverware – there are few people better placed to end their drought.

Featured image via www.youtube.com/watch?v=63apDKKx1o4

Spurs are blunted yet again at Old Trafford

“Tottenham at home. We all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll f*cking do them,’’ said Roy Keane, back in the days when he, Scholes, Beckham and Co. would ensure that Spurs wouldn’t even see the ball on their annual Old Trafford trip, let alone have it long enough to do anything with.

This season was different as Spurs saw too much of the ball, if anything, and still didn’t know what do to when they had it.

Tottenham helped themselves to over 60% possession, which may come to a surprise to some but in reality this is a regular thing for Pochettino’s side. The North Londoners have out-possessed all but two of their opponents so far this season but often lack ruthlessness in the final third.

Passing was again the theme and for all the 429 passes they attempted, over double that of United, it was one simple, piercing ball by Ander Herrera that breached the Spurs backline and unleashed Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The way Danny Rose and Kyle Walker maraud forward as wide midfielders is indispensable to the way Spurs build their attacks.

But for all the undoubted positives this entails comes one fatal negative, as Spurs found out when Harry Kane gave the ball away in the middle of the park, leaving Rose helpless halfway up the pitch.

Inconsistency

Mkhitaryan was allowed a clear run through on goal and two touches later the ball was in the back of the net. One measured touch to take it into his stride, and another to lash home high into Hugo Lloris’ goal, and a reminder to Spurs that £26m can actually buy you a half-decent winger.

“Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting”

Spending wisely has been a problem at White Hart Lane for a number of years now. With the absurd amount of cash floating around in the Premier League, Spurs have used their budget about as sensibly as the Greek government did.

Even with the second best defence in the league and the rare luxury of having a 20-goal-a-year striker in Kane, Tottenham still look short compared to their competitors.

And that is down to the inconsistency, as the attacking midfielders who support Kane blow hot and cold far too often. None more than Heung Min Son, whose overall game was epitomised at Old Trafford.

He had two shots of note, one fierce left-footed drive from 25 yards that was well tipped over by De Gea, and the other cutting in from a promising wide left position, as well as having other options, blazed high and wide into the Stretford end, a stark contrast. He was then hauled off just shy of the hour mark.

Timid

If Son was in those box of chocolates Forrest Gump was referring to, he’d be the exclusively wrapped up one, with little to no chance of knowing what your going to get. But to single out the South Korean would be harsh.

Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting. Record summer signing Moussa Sissoko has failed to make the matchday squad at times this season, let alone warrant a place in the starting XI.

“The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game”

Tottenham’s flair players are too timid and patient, so it was no surprise to see them prancing around the edge of the United box, creating the impression that something promising was about to happen. It didn’t.

The one time Dele Alli managed to break through late on, like a man shot of confidence, he cut back, stalled, and the chance was inevitably squandered.

United manager Jose Mourinho was animated and agitated simultaneously, like a harried wedding photographer haplessly ordering for everyone to squeeze in the picture that bit more.

Pochettino appeared calmer on the touchline which could have only been his very best poker face, as he would have been far from impressed at what his team were producing in the final third.

Conviction

The Argentine spent a lot of time motionless scratching his chin, like we all used to do back in school to gain more time attempting to answer a teacher’s question.

He had the look of a man who knew he had three defenders and Georges-Kevin N’koudou to choose from to somehow change the game around.

“In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down”

Plus Sissoko, who must have fancied it in training this week, as Pochettino brought him on to run at makeshift left-back Matteo Darmian who looked about as convincing as those Walls of Jericho.

Wladimir Klitschko was present in the crowd and the Italian looked like he’d just gone 12 rounds with him as he was beaten on a number of occasions, but Spurs lacked the conviction to land a knockout blow.

The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game.

Paul Pogba berated Marcos Rojo like a strict father for going to retrieve the ball for De Gea after winning a free kick deep inside his own half late on. Gone were the days where United would go for the kill but they knew they had done enough to blunt Spurs here.

In only three of their last 13 games have the North London side scored more than a single goal, so limiting them to scraps was not one of the world’s toughest of tasks.

In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down. Rose claimed afterwards that they are ‘still in third gear compared to last season’.

Spurs have to start delivering over the Christmas period as they are already 10 points off the league leaders Chelsea.