The rational case behind a Mauricio Pochettino reunion at Tottenham
Rate this post

We use affiliate links. If you purchase something using one of these links, we may receive compensation or commission.

Ah, Tottenham Hotspur, there’s always something going on, isn’t there?

Spurs’ season has unravelled at the seam over the last 10 days. FA Cup humiliation at the hands of Championship side Sheffield United was bad enough, a meek Champions League elimination to AC Milan earlier this week took understandable hysteria over the top.

Wednesday night’s atmosphere was the third truly mutinous occasion at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium since inauguration. The first saw 10,000 returning fans chant for chairman Daniel Levy to leave in May 2021, before 50,000 more turned on head coach Nuno Espirito Santo five months later for a questionable substitution.

When Antonio Conte – his side desperately in need of a goal to save their season, but having just been reduced to ten men – looked back at his bench on Wednesday night and felt compelled to replace forward Dejan Kulusevski with centre-back Davinson Sanchez, palpable apathy turned into vocal hostility.

Boos echoed and bounced off the walls, an arena specifically designed to amplify acoustics created a bowl of bitterness.

Perhaps more startlingly were the chants which followed. Those unmistakable Pilot lyrics were firstly sparse, but come full-time, they were reverberating through the stadium’s bowels, screamed into the night sky along Tottenham High Road.

“He’s magic, you know, Mauricio Pochettino! He’s magic, you know, Mauricio Pochettino!”


For the first time since his departure in 2019, Pochettino’s name was sung to the north London heavens.

90min understands he would be interested in returning to Tottenham. It’s now a matter of when Conte vacates his post rather than if.

There are other names Spurs are considering for the post – Luis Enrique has been linked to the job, while Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi and Brentford’s Thomas Frank are also admired.

The noise around Pochettino has quietened back down a bit over the last 48 hours, but he remains a viable candidate. The big problem, however, is losing yourself in the theatre of it all and seeing it as a marriage of convenience, a re-coupling of desperation. As 90min’s Jack Gallagher once said, “Emotionally, Spurs fans are four pints deep at all times. Pochettino is a perfect fit for that.”

But there would be some method behind the madness of going back to an ex.

Let’s reassign the name of the club Pochettino managed between 2014 and 2019. Say it were a side of similar stature to Spurs – a Roma, a Valencia, somewhere between a Borussia Dortmund and an RB Leipzig. He guided them to a record points tally which was just short of winning the domestic title, took them to a Champions League final against all odds, revolutionised a whimpering team identity having found a club in crisis.

It fizzles out after half a decade as most modern jobs do, and after a year out of the game, Pochettino is finally given the keys to a super-club job in PSG. His efforts are par-for-the-course, he’s dismissed, but they have the same institutional problems moving forward in his absence anyway.

That’s exactly the sort of managerial candidate Tottenham would be looking at – a proven project manager who has tasted the elixir of the elite but will unlikely have a strong desire to return for seconds so soon.

You can’t completely ignore the context, however. Spurs are an emotional club, Pochettino an even more emotional human being – four pints deep, four pints deep.

They drifted apart because they were burned by their co-existential flame. His name has been uttered every week by fans and media alike even in the three-and-a-half years without him. That undoubtedly matters in the case against him.

Jose Mourinho

A flag adorning Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium during Jose Mourinho’s first home game as head coach / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

There are other doubts – real doubts, not the ones about whether he’s good enough a coach to win a Carabao Cup – though they do largely have caveats.

It went under the radar that Pochettino could not spring forth another tactical evolution in his final two years at Spurs. The closest he came was the interrupted integration of the talented but flawed Tanguy Ndombele. When the Premier League caught up with Tottenham’s pressing, they weren’t special anymore.

But this could be attributed to two huge factors. An 18-month period without any new signings was a huge reason why their run to the Champions League final was one on fumes, one which left everyone involved with the club completely spent and in desperate need of a getaway to the uninhabited reaches of this godforsaken planet.

Pochettino’s other major criticism was his belittling of cup competitions. He insisted that winning a domestic trophy would not ‘change the life’ of Tottenham, that silverware served to unnecessarily boost players’ egos.

And yet despite this rampant disparaging, he came closer to ending the club’s trophy drought than the serial winner managers who followed in his wake. In five seasons, Pochettino’s Tottenham reached five semi-finals and two finals. Only once were his Spurs eliminated from a competition by a team from a lower division (2019/20’s Carabao Cup defeat to Colchester on penalties). It’s happened twice already since.

The need to break this duck is more paramount than ever. It would be much, much harder for that same nonchalant rhetoric to fly, to ‘throw’ the cups.

There’s also an argument that Pochettino’s squads were too thin to maintain pushes on four fronts. The same cannot be said of the rosters assembled by Jose Mourinho or Conte, the latter of whom has refused to necessarily rotate his team across an incredibly packed schedule.

Tottenham are also at a slightly different stage of their club development cycle now. They had a net spend of £90m during Pochettino’s – a sum laughably dwarfed by all of their ‘big six’ rivals bar Chelsea, who were banned for one summer window in that period.

Pochettino navigated Spurs through their transitional period from White Hart Lane to Wembley to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. He had a say in the designs of their billion-pound ground and their Hotspur Way training ground. His fingerprints remain in a physical sense as well as metaphorical, but scarcely had the chance to work with the same tools his unsuited successors had.

While these may be good reasons to resume a previous project, returning to the past will always have pitfalls. But there is a just cause beyond nostalgia and romance, at least.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: