December 23, 2015
I love Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham. I’m putting that out there, unapologetically.
I love his ‘straight down the line’ take with the media. No sound-bytes, no misleading quotes, no digging out players. He’s honest, but he keeps his cards close to his chest. Politically switched on, but appearing straightforward. He toes the party line but comes across as a pleasant guy, who backs his players.
I love that he’s created a coherent unit. I can’t remember a Spurs team ever being so tactically ‘as one’ in my lifetime. We’ve had good teams through having great individuals. We’ve played some great football through those great individuals. But most of our players are – roughly – around the same level (with a couple of exceptions) but it is the team playing as a unit that is so, so vital. We are greater than the sum of our parts, and when else could we have said that in recent memory?
I love that he has improved individuals beyond recognition. Last season Danny Rose went from one of my least favourite Spurs players to one of my very favourites. I had previously always liked his attitude but did not think he had the ability or intelligence to be a regular; yet he was in our top three performers. In the summer I wanted Mousa Dembélé gone. Now, he’s utterly pivotal. He has clearly always had ability, so I won’t pretend that Pochettino has dramatically improved him technically. But he has identified his key weakness and made him a more complete player. And that weakness? A lack of aggression. There was never a cutting edge with Dembélé. Now, he’s bossing games, taking responsibility, and we miss him when he’s not there.
I love his judgement and the way he backs himself. Daniel Levy said of him: “He said to me [in the summer]: ‘I don’t want a defensive midfielder. I am very comfortable that I can make Eric Dier into a top defensive midfielder.’ “I think if we asked most people [before the season started], they would have said he was wrong. We have to give credit to Mauricio for his skill, and you have to trust his judgement.” (via the official site). That is remarkable. Dier is a talented boy – I think we all saw that last season. I actually predicted that he’d be an England player this season. But as a midfielder? Absolutely remarkable! I would never have thought that he would have the mobility (he’s quick, but he never seemed that nimble) or the speed of thought. Yet he has slotted in like an absolute natural.
I love his ‘management’. Andros Townsend messed up. He was silly, he made a mistake. Pochettino called him out on it:
“Discipline for me is very important. I can understand the player – we have a young squad and a player can make a mistake – but when you cross the limit it is important to stop that. As a manager I am very fair but the discipline is very important. The staff need to show respect to the player and the player needs to show respect to the staff.” (via The Guardian).
Now, Townsend’s volunteering to play Under-21 football to keep his fitness up, putting in a proper shift at that level, and becoming a role model for our young players. He will probably leave in January, but the handling of the whole event was perfect.
Last season was imperfect, and there were a few gentle concerns. But now it’s clear that it was about building foundations, planning for the future. Cutting loose the deadwood and building a team of like-minded players who will fight for the shirt and their leader.
I can’t wait for 2016’s Tottenham Hotspur. Happy New Year and COYS.