Reaching a Champions League final on a relatively tight budget doesn’t make any manager exempt from losing their job these days – not if their team underperforms for the next few months that follow. That, in short, is how Pochettino’s time in north London unfold. Defeat to Liverpool in Madrid was followed by a distorting start to the new campaign, one in which Spurs looked a shadow of the side they once were.
Results reflected this, and so too did their all-round level of performance. The liveliness and feverish pressing with which they had become synonymous in the not too distant past had faded. Increasingly, the sense grew that Pochettino could no longer fix things.
Many had believed that the aftermath of that Champions League defeat would either see a renewed push towards domestic success or the natural winding down of Pochettino’s energetic evolvement. In the end, it was the latter and this might just be the push that Levy considered, in the decision to dismiss the Argentine from the helm of coaching affairs, in the Spurs coaching hierarchy makes a degree of sense. His choice of replacement might be somewhat disheartening despite his statement replacement.
If Jose Mourinho is the answer, you have to wonder what questions Levy and the other big decision-makers at Spurs have been asking to arrive at this stage. The most obvious answer lies in the one major criticism leveled at Pochettino at Spurs: his failure to deliver a trophy. With Mourinho, they are getting a man whose record in club football appears to guarantee silverware. Perhaps, also, they have a man who, even after the way in which his tenure at Manchester United spiraled horribly out of control, is still viewed as one of the biggest names in football management.
Perhaps both these points hold some logic. Look beyond them, however, and it’s difficult to see why Mourinho at Spurs could be viewed as a good fit. At their best under Pochettino, this Spurs side was lauded for their slick, pacy, attacking play, and guile and craft while on the ball.
Off it, they pressed opponents high, working relentlessly to win possession. Appointing Mourinho, a man whose brand of football – particularly in recent years – has often looked very different and difficult to be accepted in the current trend of a tactical approach to those days are gone; that this team needs to play a different way if they are to move forward.
More importantly, that Pochettino took Spurs to the final of Champions League glory takes on more significance when factoring the fact that the Spurs team’s lack of investment in his squad in the transfer windows preceding that night in Madrid.
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In total, £95m was spent on his squad over his time at the helm – well short of all other top six clubs over the same timeframe. A need to reinvigorate his squad with new signings was widely reported as a source of frustration for him, seemingly not appeased by the summer arrivals of Giovani Lo Celso, Tanguy Ndombele and Ryan Sessegnon.
Hindered with the cost of paying for a newly constructed stadium, it’s unlikely Tottenham will have the necessary funds at their disposal for Mourinho to put his own stamp on the squad any time soon. For a man who had obvious grievances at his last club’s inability to secure transfer targets, it remains to be seen whether this proves to be problematic.
However, few would bet, given Jose’s recent track record, that Mourinho will remain in charge at Spurs for the duration of the three-and-a-half-year deal he has signed. When he does depart, there’s a very real risk that he’ll leave the club in a worse state than the one in which he found it.
With many questions unanswered by the imbalance of the last few in Pochetino last few months in charge of the Spurs, the quicker to the lost in player faith in his approach could well have raised an eyebrow but Pochettino’s departure may have been inevitable, but what has followed feels like an uncomfortable fit. As the astute in a time frame to his replacement meant that the management had been looking into Mourinho’s direction prior to his sacking.
Apparently, appointing Mourinho already feels like an abandonment of all that made Tottenham so good under the Argentine. But with the difference in team management, tactical approach, environmental management, and the opinion mean that the team is going in a different direction and with the result so far under the Mourinho tutelage guidance.
With Spurs out in the local and continental competition and the hope of qualifying for Continental competition hang in balance. The question the Spurs fans across the globe will keep asking themselves is “Has Mourinho ever been the answers to the Pochetino Spurs question”.