Hokey Cokey

I feel like each time I root myself in #PochIn, I’m wrestled back towards #PochOut the following week. That I’m even having this conversation in my head is sad; I love the man dearly. Or rather, I have loved the man dearly over the past five and a half years. He’s brought me more joy as Spurs manager than any of the previous incumbents in my lifetime. That there is a perfect solution to the current situation is pure fallacy.

Option one is that we part company with one of the better managers in world football, losing the prospect of our squad being rebuilt by one of the greatest around who built *his* reputation on building an exciting, young team, developing players from relative newcomer status to fully-fledged superstar internationals.

Option two is that we potentially let that man stay long enough to undermine his own legacy. At the moment there seems little evidence that he is able to motivate the squad that — and I think this is an oft-overlooked point — he has overseen and built. His demeanour and language in press conferences have changed over the last year, with him now more likely to throw blame the way of players or to deflect. It certainly felt that way yesterday.

There is no solution right now that does what we all want: flicks a switch and makes us play well again with a vibrant, happy team and manager. It has been years of letting squad-building get away from us that has led to this point, and it may take another two years to resolve the issues. That’s a painful thing to come to terms with. You are left to decide whether 1. sticking with the man who took us to this point (and I’ve deliberately written that in a way open to two interpretations) is the right solution, or 2. whether bringing in a new man who might (and, wow, that’s a gamble) get us back to where we were more quickly through a change in approach is better.

I alluded above to the fact that I think Mauricio Pochettino gets let off the hook too often when it comes to the critique on building his squad. It is very easy to blame Daniel Levy, very easy to blame a lack of investment. But Pochettino’s very deliberately made himself the Manager, not the Head Coach, and we know that he is very selective with new signings. It’s been widely-reported that he turned down Youri Tielemans on loan in January last season. It was also reported that he wasn’t sure about Ricardo Pereira and so went with Serge Aurier instead. Both now look like wonderful bits of business for Leicester City.

Pochettino has called Levy out in public for his style of operating in the transfer market, sure. I don’t think Levy is the easiest to work with, and I don’t think he parts with money easily. But there were other solutions here. Over the past few years we have also turned our noses up at James Maddison, Demarai Gray, Max Aarons, Ryan Sessegnon (when he was reeeeeally cheap), Ademola Lookman, and Jack Grealish (at various points). These players were all available cheaply and fitted Levy’s previous policy of buying young and buying early. I struggle to believe that these deals would not have been sanctioned — after all, we were employing scouts to find exactly these types of players.

Then we had the possibility of developing players already at the club. I wrote about this this past week. Pochettino has not been keen to develop players in any sort of focussed way, instead letting them stay around the fringes of the squad, having a look in training but not actually playing them in matches at *any* level and, thus, allowing them to stagnate. His refusal to let players out on loan has — as I say in my article — led to contract stand-offs and, ultimately, talented young players leaving or not developing post-scholarship.

So if your hands are tied with the big money moves (maybe), you aren’t interested in the ‘cheap, young punt’ transfers and you’re not developing young players already at the club… how do you intend to refresh the squad? Did Pochettino really spend multiple windows hoping that Levy would eventually change his mind and then try to get four windows’ worth of business done in one?

In the meantime, too many players have been allowed to stay beyond their peak without any succession-planning taking place. Danny Rose is the obvious example, but the same could be said for Christian Eriksen. Meanwhile we sold Kieran Trippier at the right time (probably) but did not have a plan on how to replace him. Indeed, the plan was to sell Serge Aurier too and go into the season with Juan Foyth and Kyle Walker-Peters as our right-backs, two players largely untested because Pochettino hadn’t really committed to testing them. As it turns out, he’s had to go back on that plan and bring Aurier back into the fold.

I think you could argue that there *was* some succession-planning at centre-back, with Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth being developed to take over from Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. But it’s been left to rumble on and now we’re in this toxic situation of the Belgians both being out of contract. Pochettino’s fall-out with Vertonghen at the beginning of the season felt symptomatic of the situation that he had created.

Central midfield is, of course, the biggest mess, though. Moussa Dembele has *finally* been replaced properly (with Tanguy Ndombele) but a year of the Harry Winks/Moussa Sissoko midfield axis has been a painful watch, and now Pochettino is unsure who best to partner Ndombele with. Winks is probably fine in a midfield three in games where we are going to have most of the ball, and Sissoko is probably fine in a three in games where we need to press and pounce on loose balls. But both have niche skillsets unsuited to being in a two without a more traditional ball-winner, and signing 30-year old Sissoko to a an extended new contract seemed somewhat desperate.

And in all of this I have not yet mentioned our playing style. The ‘Pochettino Press’ has all but gone. The latest example on Saturday showed a team that didn’t know whether they were staying compact or pressing, and got caught in-between. For the Sheffield United goal (in the tweet below) Giovani Lo Celso eventually commits to the press with Son Heung-min ready to pounce, but the fact that they either ‘go rogue’ or are the only players focussed on winning the ball and countering directly leads to the goal.

The ‘painful’ rebuild that Pochettino spoke of is, sadly, panning out to be way more painful than we all thought.

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  1. Hanging-on to a manager because you liked what he was doing three years ago is as stupid as hanging-on to a player for the same reason - if he can't do it NOW, he's no use, and that's all there is to it. Poch Out!
    1. You have to ask the following question. What was it that made us so good in 2016/17? Was it Poch's high press? Was it the composition of that team? How responsible was Poch for the composition of that team? The high press has gone, and injury/age/departure has taken its toll on some of that 2016/17 team. If you blame it on the lack of a high press, and I think I do, then there's only one person responsible, and he's the manager.
      1. Since then we have gone from having consistently the youngest starting XI in the league to having one of the oldest. Whilst the manager isn't exactly free if blame there, pressing is a young man's game and so I blame our transfer policy. The problem there, as Windy aludes to, is that it's not entirely clear who is to blame there, either.
  2. I really can't stand Cheshuntboy, who always creeps out of his Brexitland septic tank whenever the team is having a downturn. It's always the same cry of Pochout. With respect to Poch, I think the main thing to be held against him is the missing of signings who have gone to greater things, like Tielemans. I wonder whether he thought we were better than them and he thought we had reached the elite level where elite players would come. I think that Poch may be on his own mental funk from the exertions of last year and if so, he needs time to get it right.
    1. I've been posting very regularly on various Spurs sites for several years, in good times as well as bad, but always with the Cassandra-like prophesy that we had to consolidate success with trophies, and with sensible investment in the team. We didn't do either and it's all ending in tears, as I predicted (and just as it did under your idol AVB back in 2013). Just putting the record straight.
    2. You're not an arse much with comments like that either are you?
  3. We overclocked going to Madrid last year. 3 transfer windows with no fresh blood (Skipp? KWP seems to have disappeared?) have led to the feeling of staleness in the club. 3 big signings that all fans are happy with came this last window. But with Poch it takes at least half a season for a signing to integrate... and that was before in 16/17 where the core was strong, and nobody was in a bad contract situation. We now have the people he wants to be in the next team signing new contracts (Davies, Sissoko) to recreate the feel of 16/17 where everything felt possible. Another 2 windows of transfers, which basically means we aim for 21/22 to be at full Poch again. Hope he is given the time. Remember he gave us our Tottenham back when there was no hope of anything but mid-table obscurity.
    1. If he's planning to build a team round the bang-average Davies, and the brainless Sissoko (who'll be 33 in 2022!), 'mid-table mediocrity' will certainly be all we can hope for. By the way, since when have two fourths, two fifths and a sixth (our league positions in the five years before Pochettino arrived) constituted 'mid-table'?
      1. Still pining after Harry?
      2. Didn’t have to mention that The Harrys, Son, Dele, Sessegnon, Ndombele, Gazzaniga Foyth and sanchez are also all signed to good length contracts. As are Lamela and Lucas. Davies and Sissoko are this season’s “renewals.” The boss must know how much Sissoko brings to the team in terms of effort and leadership to sign him till 35! Remember, he was 30m signing! We probably went one window no signing too far to keep it all fresh while the stadium was completed. Give Levy a chance. Because he has delivered a team that can challenge for titles rather than a team that can only dream of 7th. This is our first bad run in 5 seasons. Poch will fix it.
  4. Also, quit with your idiotic strawmen. Nowhere was it stated that he was building a team around Davies or Sissoko. They are important squad members and both internationals. Sissoko is not brainless, either. His positioning is very sound and he has an awareness of in-game management; what he lacks is composure when shooting and sometimes when passing. Davies had very good stats for assists when he wasn't playing with an injury. Windy has a bias towards youth players and admits to that. The fact that some of them have not come through may be because they are not good enough. Poch is not in direct charge of them, either.
    1. You were wrong about AVB, you're wrong about Pochettino, but it doesn't matter because anyone critical of either is a racist/fascist/xenophobe/bigot? Just a shame football matches are settled by goals, not 'wokeness', don't you think?
      1. It's taken five years to be "wrong" about Pochettino. It's not about political affiliation, it's about flushing you out. We haven't won many points in this calendar year, but in the previous calendar years we were stellar. It's a meaningless stat. Pochettino has been dealing with building and maintaining a team in the middle of a major rebuild of infrastructure. We haven't been played off the park apart from the second half against Bayern; we have reached heights never attained before in the Champions League during this period.
      2. Well, three cheers for you - I've never felt so flushed-out. I was pointing-out Pochettino's all-too obvious failings back in 2016, when we blew our best chance of the title and collapsed in the run-in, and have had plenty to say about his favouritism, hopeless game management and use of subs ever since, while the blind faith brigade has been trumpeting the 'he's magic, you know' tripe. I'm glad you've accepted that you were wrong about him now, even if it's taken you five years, because facing your problems (of self-delusion in your case) is the first step to overcoming them. Keep it up - you'll be able to face the real world eventually.
  5. Like a lot of the fan base I'm torn between loyalty over where we have been, and disillusionment with what we have become. From the second best team over a three year window, 16-18 to a team bereft of ideas and on a par with Sheffield United and Burnley. If Levy sticks with Poch then we have to give him another 18 months. If however we sack him we need to be clear on what we want in a replacement. A coach who is all about the development of top young players is my preference, something Poch seems to have abandon. Ralph Ragnick for me. The treatment of KWP and the refusal to consider Teilemans worried me greatly and showed his focus had shifted to him thinking we could seriously get players like Dyabala. That's not Levy's model,as E.N.I.C are not done with this cash cow a coach that understands this is imperative Till then we are just spinning our wheels.
    1. Sess, Ndombele and Lo Celso aren’t young then? Nor Dele and Foyth and Sanchez? Or Skipp? Why we may have missed on Tielemans and Pereira is only fit for speculation. If we had managed to sign Dybala, wouldn’t our front 6 or 7 be the envy of most club fans in the world then? None of our academy graduates that have left Spurs are making the back pages every week. Perhaps they were missing that final bit that would have made them top 100. Why KWP hasn’t shone, only the manager knows. And I doubt Poch is not trying to improve him. (Poch has and will banish if he sees no future with a player.) Poch said it is a rebuild year. We were all blinded by Madrid and big money attacking signings and hoped it would be a challenge year. Unfortunately it was one season too far for our then-amazing defence. We rebuild and challenge next year.
  6. Poch is not the messiah, nor the answer. Like it or not, he is accountable for what happens on the pitch - that’s why he is paid a fortune. To put this sorry mess into context we have six more away games before one whole year would have elapsed since THFC gained three points in the EPL. Bearing in mind that two of these six are against WHU and MUFC, I don’t see that Poch has the ability to swing things around. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the club’s scouting systems and transfer/ recruitment committee, what on earth is the defence for someone who cannot buy an away victory. What is he telling the players FFS? He also talks in riddles: for just one example, on the eve of the UCL final he allows himself to be quoted as saying he would consider leaving THFC should they win. What message does that send to the players? Nope - he has had his chance. We need to rebuild and cash needs to be found to replace what appears to be half the team - best to do that with new managerial ideas. Let’s enjoy the final blast of the UCL knock out stages and prepare for the Europa qualifications in 2020.
    1. You get the same number of points for winning home games as away games.

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