Tottenham are in disarray – sacking Pochettino changes nothing
Tottenham Hotspur's issues are too ingrained to be addressed by a change of manager, writes Marcus Foley.
“Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing.” Therefore, Tottenham sacked Mauricio Pochettino.
Disappointment is relative. Has Tottenham’s form been extremely disappointing in relation to the rest of Pochettino’s tenure? Perhaps. However, it appears that the Argentine has become the victim of his own brilliance. Put simply, Spurs have regressed to their mean. Their mean being that of a middling top-flight club. At the time of writing Tottenham sit three points off fifth - their mean if that is measured by spending on wages.
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Unfortunately for Tottenham, well managed finances, great training facilities, or a great stadium do not maketh a great club. Clubs of substance build on success. Take for example Liverpool. They were a good team two years ago. However, the club acknowledged weaknesses and addressed those. Over the course of a year or so they signed Virgil Van Dijk, Alisson and Fabinho. The result was a sixth European Cup win.
Tottenham have not done that. The team that sat 14th in the league are manifestly worse than the team that finished second in 2016-17. That summer, Spurs lost a wantaway Kyle Walker and failed to replace him. Serge Aurier does not count.
By that point Tottenham had failed to sign a new player for two transfer windows. That sort of dereliction of duty has long term impacts like, for instance “domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season [becoming] extremely disappointing.”
Pochettino had spoken of a painful rebuild. Now, to be clear a rebuild does not involve simply signing new players. The acquisitions of Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon simply acknowledged Tottenham were in decline but did not represent a remedy.
Those signings did not - and could not - immediately address the ills that were allowed to fester for those two transfer windows. Tottenham had become stale; the spine of their team more withered and key players appeared to be no longer 'bought in' to the project - in fact, the club's inability to shift unwanted players was as much of a hindrance to a rebuild as their inability to add to their squad. The chemistry of a successful team takes time to foster, and the 47-year-old has not been afforded that time.
Mauricio Pochettino a été limogé par TottenhamGetty Images
However, not to put too fine a point on it, that decline began in the summer of 2017, put in motion after the club – and for club, read board – failed to improve a team that had achieved their best finish in the modern era. None of Davinson Sanchez, Aurier or Fernando Llorente improved the first team. In fact, Tottenham entered the following season a weaker proposition, and the season after that weaker again.
Pochettino managed to stave off the stark descent the boardroom flailings should have set forth. However, the tail end of last season and the beginning of this season saw the team reap what the board had sown - they have played and looked like a team on its last legs. There has been a failing at the club but that failing has largely come at a boardroom level – the building of the new stadium offers some mitigation but the pressures associated with that sort of project are well-documented, so that argument holds only so much weight.
However, the timing of the decision, as the statement says, to relieve Pochettino and his staff of their duties at the end – rather than the start – of the international break reinforces the impression of a board lacking football acumen, or direction. Perhaps further details will emerge of a wider falling out that expedited the Argentine's departure. Perhaps not.
Further, the fact Jose Mourinho has been appointed further indicates that there is, bar improving the club’s infrastructure, little in the way of long-term planning in place at the yet-to-be-actually officially named Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. If there is a candidate less suited to working in the long-term with Daniel Levy then they are yet to reveal themselves. Tottenham are in disarray. Sacking Pochettino addresses little of that disarray. The team are older, the team are in decline and some of its core want to leave. What Tottenham need is a rebuild. A painful one, one that Pochettino predicted but has not been given the chance enact.