When Mauricio Pochettino departed Southampton in May 2014 to take over at the helm of Tottenham Hotspur, it’s safe to say he had his fair share of critics. The Argentine gaffer, who more or less started the unforgettable Summer 2014 exodus that took place at St Marys, has since integrated his style of play firmly into the Premier League and cemented his place as arguably one of the best managers in the Barclays Premier League.
After a solid start to his career at Southampton guiding the Saints to 8th in the league table (their joint highest ever Premier League finish at the time), Pochettino then signed a contract to become Tottenham’s 10th manager over a 12 year spam. Despite totalling 69 points in his first season at the club (five points fewer than Sherwood gained the previous season) he led Spurs to a 5th place finish in the 2014-15 season, which saw them qualify for the Europa League; but this year they look even stronger. In his opening 18 months with the North London Club, he has seen some memorable wins, in particular the crucifixions of Mancehster City and Chelsea, both 4-1 and 5-3 respectively and currently boasts a win percentage of exactly 50% (only includes Premier League fixtures).
Pochettino tends to follow the same trends at all of the clubs he has managed. He favours a very high-pressing, attacking style of football. He has often employed a 4-2-3-1 formation. While doing so, he instructs his team to build from the back. This dictates his team selection, which often includes fast players with excellent stamina. This is an obvious aspect if you wish to excel in a solid, high-pressing system. Another notable plaudit in Pochettino’s armoury is his vast promotion in youth footballers. In just a short spell so far at White Hart Lane, we have already seen the likes of Eric Dier, Nabil Bentaleb, Tom Carroll, Delle Ali and of course Harry Kane burst on to the scene as top quality footballers. Harry Kane was the star of Spurs’ 2014/15 season, with the talisman netting 31 goals in 51 appearances, 21 of those goals coming in an incredible breakthrough year for the 22 year old, which saw him just fall short of Sergio Aguero in taking home the Premier League’s golden boot award. Pochettino infuses a balance of world class talent in his teams accompanied by an injection of youth and at times it is a joy to watch. They are no doubt one of the most consistent teams this season with 34 goals scored partnered by 9 goals and 9 draws. They also have the best defensive record to boast about so far this campaign with only 16 goals conceded and just a mere two defeats from 20 league games thus far.
Of course a lot of the team’s responsibility is down to the manager, but it’s often down to the players too and at Spurs they possess one thing that only a handful of teams in; depth. When you compare all 11 position on the football pitch and then the quality of players that Spurs have, it is more or less identical all over the field. Whether it be Hugo Lloris in goal and having Premier League worthy stopper Michel Vorm as a back up, or the likes of having Danny Rose/Ben Davies on one side and then Kyle Walker/Kieran Trippier on the other, and with a team that like a good injury, this has been vital to their campaign, courtesy of some successful business from Pochettino over the summer. Harry Kane is firing regularly again, and the defensive partnership of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld (after snubbing Southampton) is proving to be the best in the Premier League. Their game changer Christian Eriksen hasn’t been at his best this season but Summer buys in Heung Min-Son, Delle Ali and a revival in form in Erik Lamela’s game has seen no shortage of entertainment in football at White Hart Lane this season.
Pochettino isn’t just having an effect on Tottenham’s powerful league surge, but his managerial tactics are also having a long lasting dilemma at his former club, Southampton. Ronald Koeman took over as Southampton boss after Mauricio’s departure and had a glorious first season, bettering Pochettino’s highest league finish by an extra position and ended their league campaign with a Europa League spot. But, Koeman has seen to expose his players to media criticism and the south coast club have seen a real draught on their world class youth promotion. One particular correlation with Southampton’s game is a high-pressing nature for the opening 20 minutes but fitness levels begin to deteriorate and leaves more for conceding goals, which now sees Southampton enter the odds for relegation at the end of this season. This was never a problem under Pochettino, the standard of football was at times far from pretty, but they always seemed to get the job done when they needed too and established themselves as a top flight Premier League club in the process.
Spurs currently sit fourth in the Premier League table, and they’re making steady lee-way on the teams above them, and with the Premier League being the most unpredictable year it’s ever been, could it finally be their year to pip the likes of Manchester United to Champions League qualification?