Mauricio Pochettino - the man behind all that is right with Tottenham Hotspur
The former Saints manager is the reason behind the resurgence at Tottenham Hotspur F.C., we delve deep into understanding just why
"I am never going to be manager of Barcelona or Arsenal because I am so identified with Tottenham and Espanyol. I grew up in Newell's Old Boys and will never manage Rosario Central." - Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham Hotspurs are now regarded as one of the better teams, not just in England but in Europe.
This, though, wasn't always the case.
Not long ago Spurs were considered the 'retarded' cousins of London's big boys, Arsenal and Chelsea, and were often ridiculed for their lack of ambition. A finish in the top ten would satisfy most Tottenham fans, as they started being considered cup specialists who couldn't keep up the level of performance required throughout the season, to do well in the League.
They were lucky enough to get players with immense potential into their setup, the likes of Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. But with no long-term plans to challenge for the titles that top clubs compete to win, they weren't able to tie them down at the club.
They eventually sold them both to Real Madrid and looked to make a profit instead. But the fans had now had enough, calling for the Chairman Daniel Levy's resignation, and forced the management into spending the proceeds from Bale's sale to Madrid.
The top brass at Spurs might as well have given away the proceeds to charity, because what followed could easily be taken up as a case study of how not to do business, at the London School of Economics.
The €100 million Spurs made from the sale was blown on the likes of Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Erik Lamela.
Only 2 of the 7 players brought in in 2013 remain in the squad, with the others failing to make any real impression at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen is the only player to have cemented his place in the starting line-up, with Eric Lamela still on the fringes of the first team.
The shoddy performances put in by the team only further built up pressure on the Management, which had already seen 11 managerial changes in 13 years. It wasn't long before the pundits and the fans turned their back on the team.
The silver lining, if you really wanted to see it, was that there was only one direction the team could go.
Levy finds his man on the South Coast.
When Spurs began their search for a new manager - long before Tim Sherwood was dismissed in May 2014 - they initially considered Louis van Gaal and Frank de Boer. But Levy was impressed by Pochettino.
When the two first sat down, the Argentine explained his philosophy on football and on life. Since he was still employed by the Saints, Pochettino refused to detail what he would do with Spurs, out of respect for his former employees.
Pochettino starts off his managerial career with La Liga outfit Espanyol.
Mauricio Pochettino had a fairly forgettable career as a footballer, with his most newsworthy contribution coming during the second group stage game of the 2002 WC, against England, when Italian referee Pierluigi Collina awarded Argentina's opponents a penalty after Pochettino was adjudged to have brought down Michael Owen in the box. The resulting kick was converted by David Beckham for the match's only goal.
Fortunately for Pochettino, his transition from footballer to manager has been nothing but smooth. When he took over the reigns at Espanyol in late January 2009, they were third from bottom and in need of a minor miracle to secure another season in Spain's Premier League.
To make matters worse for the former PSG and Bordeaux centre back, his first game in charge came against bitter rivals FC Barcelona under Pep Guardiola, in the Spanish Cup. Despite having just two training sessions prior to the game, Espanyol managed to eke out a 0-0 draw against the Spanish Giants.
The Spanish side's fortunes improved and they eventually finished the season comfortably mid-table with their most significant result being a 2–1 victory in the league derby against Barcelona, their first in the competition at the Camp Nou for 27 years.
He went on to manage the team till 26 November 2012, however, following a 0–2 home loss against Getafe CF that left the team in last place with just nine points from 13 matches and with the manager complaining about the financial restrictions being placed upon him, his contract was terminated by mutual consent at the end of that month.
Argentine's break in the Premier League.
On 18th January 2013, Southampton F.C. announced that Mauricio Pochettino would take over as Manager, replacing Nigel Adkins. HIs first game for the Saints was a 0-0 draw with Everton at home, but started getting noticed after his team managed to beat reigning champions Manchester City 3-1, three weeks later. HIs first league win in English Football.
In his first full season at Southampton, Pochettino managed to lead the team to an eighth-placed finish, their highest league position since 02/03, recording their highest points tally in the Premier League era, notching up wins against English giants Liverpool and Chelsea.
Tottenham board place their trust in the relatively unknown 42-year-old.
On 27th May 2014, Tottenham appointed Pochettino as head manager, on a five-year contract, following the ouster of interim manager, Tim Sherwood. In his first season, the man from Newell's Old Boys led his team to the League Cup Final, only to be beaten by Chelsea in the decisive game.
A generally successful first year in-charge saw Spurs finish fifth, just missing out on top four finish and a consequent Champions League campaign in the following season.
Pochettino employed a new managerial style at White Hart Lane, resulting in a change in fortunes for the North London side.
Pochettino barely spoke any English when he reluctantly first arrived in England. Persuaded by his wife Karina and assistant Jesus Perez, the Argentine feared that the opportunity had come too soon. But the two words he did know were, "press" and "brave", quickly winning the hearts in the stands and the minds in the dressing room.
Having had time to settle down in England, his second stint in the Premier League saw him slowly grow into his own.
Pochettino employs a very high-pressing, attacking style of football, with the 4-2-3-1 formation being his calling card, coupled with a high defensive line. He likes one of his midfielders to sit deep and protect the back-line, while the other to assist further up the pitch, thereby creating multiple passing levels in the team's shape.
He favors the use of aggressive pressing high up the field both to disrupt the opposition attack and to create chances for his team. He likes his strikers to press upfront, right upto the keeper, and also likes them to drift out wide on a regular basis to receive the ball.
The transition from White Hart lane to Wembley has been much smoother for THFC than it has been for other clubs.
You don't need to look that far.
West Ham are still struggling to come to terms with their move to the London Stadium, while Arsenal are still reeling from their departure from Highbury, almost a decade and a half ago.
Mauricio - A boon for English Football
Tactics aside, no manager has done more for furthering the cause of English Football in the recent past, than Mauricio Pochettino. He has been hailed by most pundits for his focus on developing local players from the clubs' youth academies, get local government and references' support, and a willingness to promote young players in general.
It has been noted that many young players under his tutelage have gone on to play for the English national team, while Pochettino himself felt that it was his duty to develop English talent.
Spurs boss has supplied 11 of the Three Lions' 28 debutants since arriving in England.
- At Southampton: Rickie Lambert, Fraser Forster, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez, Luke Shaw.
- At Spurs: Harry Kane, Ryan Mason, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier.
- After Pochettino left St Mary's: Calum Chambers, Nathaniel Clyne, James Ward-Prowse.
Players he managed have been full of praise for the Argentine, especially his man-management approach and guidance. His willingness to advise and encourage the players to take charge of their own development, physically, technically and mentally, has gone a long way in helping home-grown players take the next step up in their careers.
Harry Winks is only the latest among a long string of players the manager has put his faith in. The rise of Harry Kane to the top of the world's best strikers' list is down to Pochettino's management. Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier also owe a lot to their current manager and his desire to build a team from within.
Despite losing their way two seasons ago, after pushing Leicester City all the way to the title, it seems forever that Tottenham have been at the forefront of the English game, with two straight, top three position finishes in the League (finally finishing ahead of rivals Arsenal in 16/17). They are arguably one of the most consistent teams in English Football at the moment.
Finishing second last season and accumulating 86 points (their best ever return in the Premier League), losing fewer matches than any other team, Pochettino has managed to engrain his philosophy at the club. Most of the credit for Tottenham's success should surely go to the man who has masterminded the revival of the North London club.
Tottenham fans will be hoping beyond hope that Real Madrid don't come knocking for one of the most sought-after managers in world football - a thought that puts a wide smile on the faces of the Gunners.