The Champions League final in early June looks like a distant memory for Tottenham Hotspur fans following a poor start to the season. Tottenham are regularly struggling to hit last term’s heights and, for the first time in a while, Spurs fans are feeling a sense of instability around the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Yet this season was supposed to be different. Their first full campaign at their new swanky stadium with hopes of building on reaching the Champions League final last year, Tottenham went into the season feeling buoyant and upbeat. But the rumblings of discontent have been brewing behind the scenes since last season.
Their run to the Champions League final glossed over the fact that Tottenham tailed off badly in the league towards the end. Only Arsenal and Manchester United’s inconsistency at the end of last season helped Spurs to cling on to the fourth and final Champions League spot.
There were question marks over the futures of too many of Mauricio Pochettino’s key men, who have been pivotal in Tottenham’s development over the last few years. Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld, Serge Aurier and Danny Rose all wanted to leave, but all remained at the club. Jan Vertonghen is also in the final year of his contract and has already clashed with the Spurs manager this season.
While the capture of Tanguy Ndombele, amidst interest from several clubs, caught the eye, it is unclear whether Pochettino was entirely satisfied with Spurs’ recruitment, despite the arrivals of Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso.
The Tottenham boss’ words have indicated that he wanted to bring in more fresh faces and push out some of the more established players. It is clear that he was ready for Alderweireld and Eriksen to go, and Rose was on the verge of a move even on deadline day. Pochettino was keen on building a fresh team and Tottenham’s transfer window activity left him with a squad full of important players who were already plotting their next move.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Future
Pochettino was reportedly toying with leaving Tottenham if he had won the Champions League last season. The Argentine’s future has often come under the scanner due to him being a very desirable coach in European football.
Real Madrid wanted him last year, but Daniel Levy made it clear that he would not be going anywhere. He was Manchester United’s top target to replace Jose Mourinho before they turned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s interim status into the role of permanent manager. With the Norwegian yet to convince, there could soon be another vacancy at Old Trafford.
But the situation around Pochettino and Tottenham is different now. While the Argentine has been clear that he will not be walking away, a continuation of Tottenham’s early-season form could change the equation. Levy does not want to lose the manager that built the modern Tottenham, but results dictate business in football.
Pochettino will be given time to turn things around and the Tottenham chairman could also loosen the purse strings in January to carry out the overhaul of the squad his manager wanted in the summer. The January window is a tough period in which to make a raft of signings, but the Tottenham side have looked bereft of inspiration on the pitch in at times and may be crying out for reinforcements.
The coming months are likely to be massive for Tottenham as manager and squad try to mend their relationship and rekindle the spark that made Spurs such a enthralling team to watch in recent years.
Can Pochettino Turn Things Around?
There are many things that made Sir Alex Ferguson a managerial genius. One of the key tenets of his management was his ability to refresh his set-up every few years. The Scot sold big names from his squad to bring in fresh new talent and made major changes to his backroom staff to allow fresh voices around his team. It is easy to forget the number of times he changed his assistant manager. Ferguson believed every team worked in cycles and rarely allowed staleness to set into his squad.
Ryan Giggs told the Harvard Business Review about Ferguson’s management: “He’s never really looking at this moment, he’s always looking into the future. Knowing what needs strengthening and what needs refreshing – he’s got that knack.”
One of the noises coming out of Tottenham is that things have turned stale behind the scenes. A look at Tottenham’s team would make it clear that the big players in the current squad are the same as when Pochettino started working wonders with the north London side. The same gang of performers – Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, and Dele Alli – have remained the standard-bearers of this side.
A few of them even wanted to leave in the summer and Alli has seen a massive drop in form, with questions now being asked over whether he can ever again reach his former heights.
The Tottenham squad have not turned against the manager who made them a top team. But the same training sessions, the same messages and Pochettino’s intensity are finally taking a toll on the largely same group of players. The Tottenham manager’s backroom staff has also remained largely the same from his days at Espanyol.
One of the reasons Pochettino wanted a new-look squad in the summer was to avoid this feeling of staleness. He realised the need to refresh the team, but has been left to push on with a familiar group. The intensity of their pressing that made Tottenham such a thrilling side to watch has been missing since the end of last season. It is not that the players have downed tools, but it is the manager who is now struggling to get the same output from his squad.
What next for Pochettino?
The good thing for Pochettino is that even if he leaves Tottenham in the coming months or at the end of the season, his reputation will remain largely intact. The Argentine has more or less played to the narrative that he has not been properly backed to bring in the changes to the squad he wanted in the summer. With Zinedine Zidane struggling and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer floundering, Pochettino could have vacancies he can consider at the Bernabeu and Old Trafford. Paris Saint-Germain are also believed to be keeping an eye on him, with Thomas Tuchel’s future largely dependent on him taking the club to the next level in Europe.
But would Pochettino and Tottenham want to part ways? It is clear that the Argentine is the figurehead at Tottenham and even provided input into the design of the new stadium. He has taken the club a long way forward since he joined in 2014 from Southampton and it is safe to say that he feels an emotional connection with the north London side. But if results continue to remain in a downward curve, at some point both the manager and Tottenham will have a decision to make.
Will Levy back him with the funds he needs to overhaul the squad in January and next summer? That is the immediate question. The Tottenham chairman is known for driving a hard bargain and has been running a tight ship in north London. Will Pochettino feel that he has taken Tottenham as far as he can under the circumstances and his career now needs a change? He will not be short of suitors if he decides to leave north London. The coming months look crucial to deciding what happens at Tottenham and few would though back against Pochettino inspiring a revival.