The managerial merry-go-round continued at White Hart Lane last week with Mauricio Pochettino replacing Tim Sherwood in the Tottenham hot seat after a successful season and a half in the South Coast with Southampton.
The Argentine has become the eleventh manager to work under Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy since his appointment in 2001.
Last season was Pochettino’s first full campaign in English football and his Southampton appointment in January 2013 was initially controversial. He was sacked by Espanyol only two months beforehand, with the Spanish side bottom of the league after thirteen games.
His appointment seemed especially cruel on his predecessor Nigel Adkins who had secured promotion with the club. However, Southampton’s decision was vindicated this year with an eighth place finish and Pochettino showed shrewd management to maintain his young side’s drive right to the close of the season.
Perhaps the principal task now facing Pochettino is to bring some coherence and stability to a Tottenham squad comprised of a mixed bag of his many predecessor’s signings. With this cocktail he will be expected to produce a possession oriented game built around youth. His Southampton and Espanyol’s sides promoted attacking football in line with the perceived tradition at Spurs.
However, this did not save Sherwood from Levy’s wrath. Promoting youth and attacking football couldn’t disguise the 51 goals Tottenham conceded last season. And Pochettino will first have to go back to basics with the defence. As a former Argentine international centre back, this will not daunt Pochettino but come September he could have very little options at his disposal.
Either due to injury or constant managerial change, Tottenham have not had a settled centre back pairing for many seasons. And there is now speculation over the futures of current stalwarts Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Loris.
And after last season’s summer splurge, Pochettino is unlikely to have much of a transfer kitty to work with. Bar Christian Eriksen, the other six signings have failed to deliver.
Most likely Pochettino would like to scalp his old club with the transfer money available; Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez are being linked. But he will have to compromise with technical director Franco Baldini, chief architect of last summer’s madness. Unless Levy sacks the Italian in the meantime.
Despite these challenges, Champions League football still remains the target for next season. Levy’s ambitions seem to ignore that competition for top four places is more fierce than ever before in the Premier League era.
Manchester City will continue to spend regardless of the Financial Fair Play rules. Chelsea will sign a centre forward this summer and the Rodgers project showed serious potential at Liverpool last summer.
This leaves Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton as the only realistic targets for the final Champions league position. Despite the negativity surrounding Wenger, Arsenal have always stubbornly protected their European status and are unlikely to be any different next season. Manchester United can only improve under Van Gaal.
Everton, perhaps the most likely targets for Tottenham to catch next season, are gaining momentum under Martinez and will look to build on this year’s performances.
Tottenham face an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League next season. Daniel Levy considers this goal to be realistic and Pochettino will either sink or swim according to this expectation.
While Southampton may lose some of their star players this summer, Pochettino may come to regret his move to London. At Southampton he enjoyed a seemingly endless conveyor belt of talented young players and relative stability at a club with realistic expectations. But at White Hart Lane, even with the supposed security of a five-year contract, he will quickly become Levy’s latest casualty with anything less than Champions League football.
Alan Casey, Pundit Arena.