Darren Walsh looks at the fourth-choice fans choice at the Lane who might just add some backbone to the talent.
Apart from actually winning matches, you will not see supporters of a club more excited when names to replace a sacked/resigned manager get bandied around. Spurs fans are accustomed to this feeling more than most, and the names over this past summer were particularly ambitious; Louis van Gaal, Frank de Boer, even Carlos Ancelotti was mentioned due to his love of London, never mind that he would have to move from the Champion’s League winners to a Europa League team.
But then one name rose to the surface, and compared to the aforementioned managers, Mauricio Pochettino did not stand out quite as much. Of course he did a fine job at Southampton, but the reasoning against him was that even with Spurs in turmoil, he still didn’t overtake a Tim Sherwood led team. However, judging a manager sometimes demands further analysis than simple league positions. Roberto Martinez seems to be doing a fine job at Everton since being relegated with Wigan in 2013, for example.
If Pochettino was judged solely on results without context, it’s unlikely he’d be managing in the Premier League at all. He did an incredible job at Espanyol while continually selling his best players, and impressing all watchers with a high energy, pressing style of play. This led him to the south coast where he took Southampton from just outside the relegation zone to eighth place. The exciting question for Spurs is what can he do for a team with greater resources? Added to this advantage are the lower expectations among fans while the media glare is focused on other teams. He’s also not going to be compared to his predecessor like Andre Villas-Boas was.
Employing a manager accustomed to the Premier League has already paid off, as he refused to make huge changes to tactics after a red card against West Ham while knowing that they were unlikely to see a Sam Allardyce team throw players forward. It worked out even better than imagined with a late winning goal. How many times did the team fold last season after being reduced to 10 men? If Pochettino can add backbone to the talent that’s in the team, then there may be huge possibilities in the future.
The fact is that the top four is meant to be between five clubs this season, with Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, and either Liverpool or Man United somewhere in there too. Does Levy have the ability to keep his nerve in letting a manager have a long term plan and future? He simply has to, because it is pretty unlikely that Pochettino can mould the team exactly the way he wants it in just one or two transfer windows.
The team on Saturday played nowhere near the level he will demand, with very little pressure on the ball before the red card demanded some positional changes. Whether they can keep on the tails of the top four while working on this, or “building the plane in mid-air” as Brendan Rodgers would say, is the big question. Realistically, the fans know that somewhere in the top six and a good tilt at the cups is most likely. With the Europa League offering a gateway into next year’s Champion’s League, it should be the cup competition that’s uppermost in Pochettino’s mind.
Whatever is the end result, it is time for Daniel Levy to show some faith in one of his own appointments. There are bound to be a few lows this season, whether it’s a heavy loss, a cup exit, or a losing streak. If Levy can’t ride out the storm and resist pulling the trigger, it may not be just the manager who leaves White Hart Lane this time.