How Mauricio Pochettino changed TottenhamThere is a common misconception amongst football fans that you only support a team to see them win. While it is true that you want your team to be victorious and, in the best case scenario, to win trophies, the reality is that not every single team is going to do it. If we take an English Premier League side that is playing in Europe, they only have four chances to win something across an entire year and one bad decision can take you out.
Top level football is not easy and there are a lot of variables that need to be taken into account.
This is something that was often seen with Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham side. While a common criticism towards this team was the fact that they didn't win any trophies, it also has to be said that the club pushed further beyond than any other Tottenham team, reaching an UEFA Champions League final in 2019. That's amazing and a massive achievement.
So, in this article we are going to talk about Pochettino's Tottenham, what he did, what went well, what went wrong and his legacy as their manager. Let's begin.
Tottenham when Pochettino arrivedTottenham were in a very weird place in the summer of 2014. Gareth Bale left the previous year for a world record fee to Real Madrid and the club spent a lot of that money in several players, but the only thing they got was an underwhelming 6th place and getting eliminated quickly in cup competitions.
In came Mauricio Pochettino. A young, promising manager that was known for attacking football and who had recently taken Southampton to an 8th place in the Premier League, their best ever position in the competition.
Pochettino was viewed as an interesting choice for Spurs, but at the time there wasn't a lot of fanfare. The club was used to merely qualifying to the UEFA Europa League and not challenging for trophies while the departure of Bale left them without a talisman to hold unto.
It didn't seem that things were going to get much better.
ChangesWe all know what Pochettino accomplished over the years at Tottenham. They became constant mainstays of the UEFA Champions League, always staying in the top four of the Premier League, and they even finished second in the 2016/17 season, losing the title to Chelsea. Of course, they also went on a massive run in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League, losing the final in an underwhelming way to Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team 2-0.
However, the most impressive part of this situation is how Pochettino moulded Tottenham in a club that could consistently challenge for trophies. The football was great, it was very enjoyable, but the key lied in the fact that it was effective and more effective than ever was in their modern history until that point.
One of the first changes that the Argentinian manager did was letting go of the more seasoned players, at least for the most part, in order to give way to younger players that were in better physical condition to execute his intense pressing tactics. This is why that, by the end of the 2015/16 season, some of the most veteran players that were part of Tim Sherwood's final game in the 2013/14 season, such as Michael Dawson, Vlad Chiriches, Emmanuel Adebayor and Sandro, were no longer there.
Pochettino made a lot of emphasis in young players and developing, which was a key factor at a time were Tottenham were developing a new stadium and he didn't have the funds to revamp the squad. This is why he focused on getting the most out of who he had and make smart, economical signings that could grow into more complete players, even if not all of them ended up panning out at the long run.
Harry Kane - the most important player in Mauricio Pochettinos Tottenham team
Developing a core of playersOne of the greatest success stories of Poch's reign at Tottenham was definitely Harry Kane. While Sherwood already gave him regular playing time in the 2013/14 season, Pochettino was the one that bet on him as his starting striker and you know the rest of the story: Harry Kane has become one of the best goalscorers in Premier League history and arguably the best Tottenham player of all time.
Other players that were already there grew and became even more important to the club. Christian Eriksen lived up to his promise as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, enjoying his prime years at Tottenham. Kyle Walker became so good that he went on to play for Pep Guardiola in Manchester City. Moussa Dembele was a key cog in midfield that could do the rival's pressing and organize the area.
Also, there were signings such as Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld, Victor Wanyama and Son Heung-min, who all added something very important to the club during Pochettino's tenure. Dele delivered back-to-back peak seasons as a goalscorer second striker from 2015 to 2017, becoming one of the most promising young players in Europe. We all know how good Son has become over the years. And the likes of Alderweireld and Wanyama added an element of defensive stability that the club needed for their attacking playing style.
It was a young core of talented footballers, under the guidance of one of the most promising managers in world football at the time, playing a style of football that was exciting, intense and with a lot of character, allowing them to get a lot of positive results and challenged for trophies, even if they didn't win them. They were up there, in the thick of it, competing with the best of the best.
Mauricio Pochettino has gotten a lot of criticism in recent years for not winning trophies with Tottenham and there is a very good chance he is also aware of their shortcomings (not rotating, not doing a lot of subs and being more insistent with getting more backing), but there is no denying that he arguably created the best Tottenham team of all time.