The Pochettino Effect
That's probably the best description of how I've felt about my beloved Tottenham Hotspur since the spring of 2012. I've ranted about Andre Villas Boas (AVB), felt ambivalence towards Tim Sherwood and a general distrust of everything Tottenham since Mauricio Pochettino's appointment. I wasn't impressed, but I'm a realist. We had been punching above our weight and circumstances meant the pack caught us rather than Spurs pulling away and becoming better than they had a right to be.
A raging toothache prevented my usual Wednesday night quiz date, so I settled down to watch a dodgy stream of the Chelsea match, totally in the knowledge that it would end badly. It never crossed my mind that we might win or even draw; they are quite simply better than Spurs. They were.
Walking the hounds this morning, I had something of a revelation; probably wrong, but it's something that I feel at ease with; something that if it were true, I would have no problem with unless it plunged the team into a relegation dog fight and the early evidence suggests that probably won't be the case. The reason I think MoPo might be the guy.
What epiphany have I had?
Many years ago, some French geezer called Jacques Santini took over as manager along with Martin Jol and Frank Arnesen; Santini lasted a handful of games - I've always believed the weight of expectation on his shoulders and the knowledge his squad was midtable mediocrity at best scared him off. But in an interview shortly after taking the job, Santini said he wanted to mould the club from the youth up - he would satisfy the fans and Martin Jol would bring the kids through the reserve team - utilise the facilities we have at our disposal (facilities that have improved further still) and build a team for the future. Brave and courageous words. That didn't really happen, although we did have a few academy successes, circumstances dictated Spurs relied too heavily on buying power.
Big leap - missing out some stuff that's now history. But none of it seemed to include looking inside the club for solutions.
I still struggle to see the logic in the period after Harry Redknapp and the first year of AVB's reign. It makes no sense, even if some of our best players gradually drifted away to bigger and better stages. The club had built its way to where it was through stability and familiarity - the squad played well together, covered for each others' weaknesses - not always, but enough. Improve on this and you could punch above your weight for longer. But, no. It was rebuild and almost from the bottom - style of play down to style of management. It might have worked, but the almost obsessive hatred of some sections of fans put a wedge in that just kept being tapped. Capitulations to top teams sealed AVB's fate, even if the jury is out to whether he walked or was pushed.
Let's by-pass Tim Sherwood because it seems only he didn't accept the truth.
Where were Spurs going? Nowhere. Where was the grand plan? Possibly in tatters. What do you do on limited resources? Take a risk; even if it seems like insanity taking a similar risk after two previous failures.
Pochettino has a philosophy; I'm not completely sure what it is, but I'm beginning to buy into it - not through results, but through the risks that people aren't acknowledging he's taking.
Spurs midfield squad cost about a zillion quid and frankly we sold people with more heart than we bought; but that can't be changed - the clock, for all the bleating is never going to be rewound again. We are not going to sign Defoe and Kaboul from Portsmouth; the future is already here.
With some exceptions, our imported midfield is average and over priced and this has been proved by the fact that Mason and Bentaleb are on the team sheet ahead of Paulinho, Capoue or Chadli. Home grown talent showing more desire to play for the shirt, working harder, impressing the manager or, as some would have you believe, being used by the manager to make a point - either way, they are improving all the time - their confidence in a team lacking it appears to be winning through. Is his seeming reluctance to play Harry Kane at first a sign he didn't trust him or a carefully timed bomb - look at this kid compared to your £40million strike duo? Is Fazio really the future or maybe a good role model for upcoming centre backs? The average age of the Spurs team that lost 3-0 last night was ridiculously low; something like 23. That's either foolhardy or clever and I'll opt for the latter. It's change by realisation using stealth, if I'm not just over dramatising it.
You don't win anything with kids, but you do create a stable team, a squad that fits together, slots in when others drop out; a team that plays and wins because they are a team and not dependent on a Bale or a Berbatov to save the bacon. Keep free of relegation, develop this nucleus of a team and add to it in places that need adding and you might just create a team fit for a new stadium.
Yes, this season has been awful. Mid table mediocrity in but two years, yet recently there has been an urgency about the team - when they play on the break and fast they look good. They lack width and it worries me that Pochettino prefers to play through the middle when our strength has always been playing down the flanks; but he's changing the ethos, for good or bad. He's needs options, which might be why he sometimes looks like he doesn't have a Plan B. How can you when so many of the players bought in are similar?
I expect a concerted tilt at the Europa League if Spurs are no lower than 10th and are not in danger of being dragged down - 20 points is half way to safety, we're not in any trouble, yet. I don't believe the team are good enough to get past the quarter finals, but it creates a positive atmosphere and Gods that's been missing for a couple of years. If Spurs can avoid banana skins in the FA Cup, they could keep the fans reasonably happy by making a show of things they aren't good enough to win, at the moment. Time can be your friend; ask a Hammers fan at the moment and if they'd like Sam Allardyce gone?
I'm of the opinion that the opportunity has been missed and we really do need to rebuild and stick with one man's idea for at least a couple of seasons; you can't judge business plan before it's had a chance to see if it works and that's usually two years. I like the idea of a Spurs in 2016 that consists of 50% home grown talent and 50% quality players who are seriously challenging for honours, through hard graft and team work, not just because the owner can dip into his pocket and buy a fix - lads playing for the badge. Whether Mauricio Pochettino is the man, I don't know. I kind of hope he is, the club has a reasonably dignified history with Argentinians.
Spurs fans and Daniel Levy have to give him two seasons - minimum.