Three reasons why Spurs fans should stay patient with Mauricio Pochettino
Harry Reardon looks at three reasons for Tottenham fans to remain behind their manager despite recent results
He was appointed on a philosophy, which has worked before
As the boos rang out across White Hart Lane last weekend after defeat by Stoke, a fifth loss in 11 league matches and a fourth out of six home games, it would have been easy for Spurs fans’ thoughts to turn to the prospect of a new man in the dugout. After all, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is not renowned for his patience. But maybe, under the surface, that has changed. It was noticeable, when Mauricio Pochettino was appointed in the summer, that while the same lofty ambitions as usual were expressed (“My challenge is to win the Premier League… eventually. This is our goal, to win the title one day”), the suggestion that nothing but Champions League qualification would do in the meantime had been quietly dropped. “Our target at the moment is to provide a team capable of creating our philosophy on the pitch. To develop and improve the style of football we want to play,” Pochettino said. “This is our only target at the moment. Afterwards we will see”. And philosophy is something with which the Argentine is closely linked. A disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Pochettino likes his teams to work hard and press high up the pitch, something which he demonstrated in his time in charge of Southampton to a fair degree of success. Spurs’ more precious squad may take a little more convincing of the merits of unstinting effort than the upwardly mobile, hungry Saints, but if the board make it clear that they will stay the course, the players will soon have little option but to fall in line.
There have been flickers
It was only a few games ago that all had seemed pretty rosy. After a couple of early setbacks, Tottenham’s victory over Southampton on 5 October (the only game in the last 12 which the Saints have not won) took them into the last international break only out of the Champions League places on goal difference. Their goal against Arsenal the previous weekend – in a game which they could easily have won – came as a direct result of the high pressing game, with Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and the bewilderingly productive Nacer Chadli winning the ball in Arsenal’s half before cutting straight through the Gunners’ defence. Even recently, against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League, there were attacking players closing down the defence and winning the ball in dangerous areas. In the meantime, tucked away behind Emmanuel Adebayor’s recent criticism of the White Hart Lane crowd was an interesting line from the Togolese suggesting that the players’ own responsibilities may be slowly dawning on them. “Obviously all managers bring their own philosophies, the way they see football, the way they see games,” he said. “But come on, this is the third or fourth manager in two or three years, so we just have to stop it now being about the manage..” If the team is finally starting to wise up and buy in, this could yet be the start of something special in north London.
It is early days – for the manager and for the season
Most importantly, of course, Pochettino has been in charge at Tottenham for 11 league games. Even Jacques Santini lasted that long. Juande Ramos – who went from League Cup winner to the man behind the fabled ‘two points from eight games’ within a matter of months – was allowed 35. Having awarded the Argentine a five-year contract in the summer, it is surely inconceivable that enough has materially changed for the board to make replacing him now a realistic prospect. What is more, in the current Premier League table, Tottenham are three points behind Arsenal, two behind Manchester United, and level with Liverpool and Everton. While Chelsea march imperiously onwards, Manchester City have lost to Stoke and West Ham, and have drawn with QPR. Teams in this league are beatable, and the Champions League places – target or otherwise – are only four points away. With the likely exception of Chelsea away in early December, Spurs face a string of winnable games over the next month, and will soon be able to put the Europa League behind them, at least until February. By Christmas, things could yet look a whole lot better for the Lilywhites.