Why new Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino looks like the right man for the job
PUBLISHED: 19:21 27 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:16 28 May 2014
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Less than three weeks have passed since the end of the season, and Tottenham have wasted little time in securing the services of Mauricio Pochettino, who seems to tick most of the necessary boxes.
While there were suggestions that Spurs were waiting to see if Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti might become available, it always seemed unlikely that the former Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain boss would swap the Bernabeu for White Hart Lane – and Manchester United were quick to snap up Louis van Gaal.
Southampton’s Pochettino and Ajax manager Frank de Boer were always more realistic targets, and the Lilywhites have understandably gone for the former.
There are good reasons for doing so – primarily the fact that Pochettino is already familiar with the Premier League, an advantage he also holds over Van Gaal.
Van Gaal and his countryman De Boer may have won more trophies but Spurs know better than most that big-name stars do not always deliver in England.
Tottenham blew more than £100million on foreign talent last summer and most of them have struggled to adapt, so it would have been a curious decision to go down the same route with the manager and appoint someone who also has to find his feet in the Premier League.
De Boer has had great success in Holland with Ajax, but he has only managed the one club – a club he already knew well after spending plenty of time there as a player.
It remains to be seen how he will fare in his next job, but it is probably for the best that Tottenham aren’t the club to find out.
Lest we forget, Andre Villas-Boas won the treble with FC Porto in Portugal, but he lasted just nine months at Chelsea and 18 months at Tottenham.
Pochettino has already proved himself in his 18 months in the Premier League, taking Southampton away from the relegation battle and into eighth spot – the club’s best ever Premier League finish - this term.
That makes the Saints ‘the best of the rest’ behind the seven sides who were battling for the Champions League places.
It would be very difficult for Pochettino to break into that group next season, given the lesser resources on the south coast, so Tottenham is the obvious next step for him.
Of course, style is important to Spurs – a fact which has been particularly highlighted this season – and the Argentine certainly employed an attractive brand of football at Southampton so there can be few complaints on that front.
Pochettino also has the right image and, unlike the outspoken Tim Sherwood, is likely to be a predictable, safe pair of hands in front of the media – much like Villas-Boas was for most of his tenure.
Unfortunately for Villas-Boas, he veered off course and criticised the club’s fans and the media, while also making a mess of the fall-out following Hugo Lloris’ head injury – and the end swiftly followed.
Sherwood and Harry Redknapp also did as much damage to their prospects at Spurs with their mouths as they did on the pitch, but Pochettino seems unlikely to make the same mistakes.
Indeed, despite a good command of English, he uses a translator in press conferences and interviews to ensure nothing is lost in translation and to avoid unfortunate headlines.
Player development is also a key element of the Spurs job, both in the first team and the youth system following the £45million investment in the new training ground and academy.
Pochettino also ticks the box on that front. The likes of Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana have become England players on his watch, and Jay Rodriguez was in with a chance of going to the World Cup when he was injured in April, having come on in leaps and bounds under the Saints boss.
Meanwhile, Pochettino has shown his belief in the youngsters who have emerged out of the club’s academy – the likes of Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse, Sam Gallagher and, of course, Luke Shaw.
Lallana and Shaw are now thought to be worth a combined £45m and, as Spurs chairman Daniel Levy attempts to fund a new stadium, he would be keen to see his players’ values increasing in a similar manner.
Of course, Pochettino has been indebted to a Southampton academy which was churning out future stars long before he arrived - the likes of Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale, for example – and Shaw and Ward-Prowse were already playing in the first team under Nigel Adkins.
Critics will suggest that the Argentine has simply ridden a wave which was already swelling in January 2013, and that he inherited a strong squad which was on the rise under his predecessor.
That may underplay his impact, but there are justifiable questions to ask over Pochettino’s signings at Southampton - whether he knows how to spend wisely and strengthen the first team in the transfer window.
Under the Argentine, the Saints broke their transfer record to sign Dani Osvaldo from Roma for £15million last summer – and six months later he was on loan at Juventus.
Meanwhile, the jury is out on midfielder Victor Wanyama, who cost £12.5m from Celtic and has had an inconsistent, albeit injury-hit, season.
The only certifiable hit is centre-back Dejan Lovren, who has had a solid campaign at centre-back after his £8.5m move from Lyon.
Given that recent record, Spurs fans might understandably be nervous about the prospect of Pochettino and technical director Franco Baldini putting their heads together to plan their summer shopping – particularly after last year’s mistakes.
However, in the end, the new boss delivered entertaining winning football while giving young players a chance at St Mary’s, and those are the requirements for the Tottenham job.
As Levy said in his welcoming statement this evening: “In Mauricio I believe we have a head coach who, with his high-energy attacking football, will embrace the style of play we associate with our club. He has a proven ability to develop each player as an individual, whilst building great team spirit and a winning mentality.”
Can he do so again at White Hart Lane? It remains to be seen. Most managerial appointments are gambles, and Spurs are gambling for the third time in two years. There have been a number of false dawns so only time will tell whether Levy has finally found a long-term Tottenham manager who will complete his five-year contract.
However, the new man has already shown the desirable attributes in the Premier League and, although he has not won much so far, this is the natural next step and Pochettino will believe that Spurs’ resources will enable him to secure trophies as well as that all-important Champions League spot.
Liverpool and Everton have both been rewarded for giving Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez their chances at bigger clubs, following their previous work in the Premier League with Swansea and Wigan.
Then again, the same theory took David Moyes to Manchester United.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs