Tottenham host bitter rivals Arsenal in what looms to be another enthralling North London derby early Monday morning (AEST) as both sides continue their fight for the remaining European places.
I remember a time when if you mentioned to anyone that you support Tottneham Hotspur you would most likely have been greeted with a reply of eye rolling, on some occasions greeted with laughter and a sheer confused look on people’s faces as if to say “Why?”. However, after five and a half seasons with Mauricio Pochettino at the helm, it is safe to say that the eye rolling, occasional laughter and the confused looks had disappeared – until the events of the past week during the Champions League match when Bayern Munich absolutely smashed Spurs 7-2 at home.
Bayern Munich simply outplayed them in the second half and some substitute choices made you wonder about Mauricio Pochettino’s decisions. Nevertheless, this makes you wonder – is Pochettino still the right man for Tottenham?
A disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Pochettino brought a style of play that initially took time for the players and fans to adjust to. If you look at Pochettino managerial career, you do see his own philosophy steadily evolve from his time at Espanyol, Southampton and now at Spurs. At all three clubs, he made sure that his teams were ready to defend first, use the midfield wisely and pounce on the counter attack once the ball was regained from the opposition.
This was clearly evident by the 2016-17 season when he lead Spurs to finish second in the English Premier League, but statistics tell a different story. Chelsea finished on 85 goals for and 33 against, while Spurs finished with 86 goals and only 26 against – the lowest of any team within the top six.
Pochettino was able to achieve this by realising that he had to adapt his playing style where needed – including injuries to players – and also managed to get the best results from the group of players he had. The icing on the cake after years of hard work was the club reaching the Champions League final, only losing to Liverpool in the end. Normally this would be the sign of great things to build on the following season, but unfortunately for Spurs fans this isn’t the case.
After finishing a respectable third and fourth the following seasons – and the grand opening of the magnificent Tottenham Hotspur stadium – it seems that the Spurs playing group have some fatigue. The 2019-20 season so far has Spurs at three wins, two draws and two loses. However, the losses came to Newcastle United and Leicester City – who have a new buzz about them after the arrival of Brendan Rodgers.
These are the games that Spurs should be winning if they want to compete and finish in the top four of the EPL. After the drumming they experienced in the second half at the hands of German champions Bayern Munich, it seems that Pochettino and Spurs have taken a few steps back. The game against Liverpool in the Champions League final must seem like a lifetime ago now to some fans.
This is where I suggest to Spurs fans to not give up on Pochettino yet. After the match, Pochettino was quoted with the following:
“To be honest after 30 mins of first half was my best feeling managing the team this season. That is so difficult to accept how after the second half changed the feeling and the result is very bad, but if you face talented players like Bayern have, they are an amazing team of course you like because at the end the team was okay…we lost, but they were clinical.”
It’s no secret that Pochettino has issues with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, which has resulted in limited player movement coming into the club. This was painfully evident when Spurs lost again on the weekend to Brighton 3 – 0. It’s also the same on the other end when Spurs were trying to offload players such as Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose before the start of the EPL season.
The squad needs a complete overhaul as some players have now passed their used by date. Think of Dele Alli, who was the most exciting footballer a few seasons ago – scoring for fun and supporting the attacking players when going forward. He’s been on a bad run of injuries, however he doesn’t seem like the same player he was.
That was one of the great qualities of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, who refreshed his team every two to four years to keep quality and consistency among the team. With this current Spurs squad, you feel that many may have already reached their peak with Pochettino and are ready for a new challenge.
Hopefully in the January transfer window, Daniel Levy will open the wallet and allow Pochettino to revamp his squad. Unfortunately I still see Spurs suffering more defeats like this until then. If Pochettino is allowed to go and bring in a few fresh faces and offload some that he no longer needs, hopefully we will see the return of exciting football back at Tottenham.