Written by Ian Hope
As the news broke last evening that Tottenham Hotspur had sacked Mauricio Pochettino most people appeared shocked by the decision. The Argentinian manager had five and a half successful years at White Hart Lane building a young and exciting squad even if the trophies never duly arrived.
Pochettino turned Spurs from a mid table side who lacked a backbone to an energetic and free scoring side that almost conquered Europe. He delivered Champions League football and appeared to have a great relationship with the clubs supporters and chairman. However, if you look a bit deeper maybe the rot had started to set in come 2019 and the cracks were beginning to show.
Spurs managed just 25 points from 24 premier league games which is over a season of 38 games just enough to keep you in the division. Spurs should count themselves very lucky they qualified for the Champions League this season after finishing fourth above Arsenal by one point. In fact, had Manchester United’s form not fallen away with a horrific final run of results United would have sat in third position and Chelsea in fourth therefore shoving Spurs out in the process.
It could be said that last seasons Champions League run to the final papered over emerging cracks within the side.
You could go back a couple of seasons to see where the rot set in. Pochettino wanted a player clear out at White Hart Lane to bring in younger and hungrier players to replace the older ones. Daniel Levy failed to deliver on this and Pochettino had to keep going with the same squad minus the likes of Kyle Walker who was sold to Manchester City.
In fact the summer of 2018 was the most damaging for Spurs and the manager/chairman relationship. No new signings came into the club, not one player. Whilst sides around them recruited, Levy sat on his hands and did nothing. When this summer transfer window came around, the players who came in were too little too late. Pochettino wanted to build and recruit when Spurs were on the way up to continue the growth of the side. You could argue the side peaked last year and is very slowly on its way down.
Levy has also damaged the morale of the squad by stalling on contract renewals for experienced players in Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Eriksen. There is now a group of players in the Spurs side who lack motivation and have thoughts of moving on as well as players who are suffering from playing so much high intensity pressing football.
Pochettino himself made a huge error when prior to the Champions League final against Liverpool stated if Spurs won the cup he would leave the club. These comments always backfire and he should never have given that interview. Maybe Pochettino was already thinking it was time for a new challenge and should have gone after the final giving himself a break and Spurs time to recruit in the summer.
Every manager has a shelf life. No manager stays at a club for decades anymore. Even the likes of Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola give themselves a cycle and move onto a new challenge. Pep was never going to stay at Barcelona for life, he wanted new challenges in Germany, England and ultimately a challenge at international management. Pochettino had probably come to the end of his cycle after almost six years.
Although Pochettino transformed Spurs on the pitch, he was guilty of never delivering a trophy and this is probably the main reason why Levy has decided to recruit serial trophy hunter Mourinho. Pochettino disregarded the domestic cup competitions opting for the obsession of the premier league and champions league. Success breeds success and you cannot put a price on winning a league or FA cup.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s successful reign started with an FA Cup win. The following year the European cup winners cup, then the League cup until finally the title arrived. Manchester City started with an FA cup victory and have always taken the league cup seriously like Mourinho. You cannot put a price on having a day out at Wembley and winning a trophy. The morale of everyone at the club improves and trophy winning sides recruit better. Maybe Pochettino missed a trick here.
If the sacking of Pochettino was a shock to everyone this was overshadowed by the appointment hours later of Jose Mourinho whose reputation has took a bashing since his toxic exit at Manchester United. Levy is employing a serial winner who comes with a lot of baggage as well as a reputation for being a dinosaur in football getting left behind tactically by others.
Mourinho will guarantee cup finals and has won trophies wherever he has been. In his first season at Old Trafford he won the league and europa cups. In his second season he got United to an FA cup final, losing out to Chelsea 1-0. In that second season, United had their most consistent season since Sir Alex retired staying second throughout the season and finishing above Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
The problems came when Mourinho wanted to take United to the next level and challenge for a title. He rightly identified the need for a quality centre half but he was overruled by Ed Woodward who claimed United had enough players in that position. Mourinho didn’t get his man Harry Maguire and everything unraveled from there. Mourinho was proved right when United shipped so many goals without a commanding centre half and Woodward ultimately signed Maguire a year later for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and had to stump up a further £10m than he would have done the year earlier.
You can already see the clashes between Mourinho and Levy now with the manager wanting to spend big on players. Levy is notoriously difficult to deal with for other clubs always being a tough negotiator, just ask United when they had to deal with Levy over the purchase of Berbatov. Levy has already let Pochettino down in transfer dealings, it is hard to see Mourinho taking kindly to penny pinching from Levy.
It is a gamble for Mourinho in returning to England so quickly. His reputation has taken a battering from football fans and pundits alike. Talk of a sulking personality and his pragmatic football do not excite fans like a Guardiola or Rodgers do now. You would not be surprised to see a Matic or Fellaini appearing in the white and blue of Spurs.
Many have said that Mourinho only won so many titles by spending huge amounts of money and winning a two horse race for the championship. Nowadays there are more teams in the mix for the title and you no longer are able to win the league with 84 points such has the standard increased with Man City and Liverpool.
There is a lot to ponder if you are a Spurs fan but having watched the recent coverage Mourinho is still box office in England. Maybe he is the man to take Spurs to the next level.
What do you think to the sacking of Pochettino? Is Mourinho the man to succeed at White Hart Lane?