When Borussia Dortmund appointed Jürgen Klopp as manager in 2008, very few expected the fairytale journey he was to take them on. The side had just finished nine points off relegation in the Bundesliga, 13th place in an 18 team league. However it was the inspired capture of Klopp from Mainz that was to win them their first Bundesliga title since 2002 in 2010-11. Die Borussen finished sixth in his first season and fifth the season later. When they did eventually win the Bundesliga title in 2011, the side had been transformed from a nervy, mid-table side to genuine contenders not only in Germany, but on the European stage too. His positive impact was so immediate that within nine months, his initial two year contract was doubled and the board felt that they had their man. His second season relied on some stellar signings but also brilliant youth integration. Kevin Grosskreutz, Sven Bender and Mats Hummels were all brought in, evolving into key players, and a year later, in 2009, he brought about the promotion of young stellar midfielder – Mario Götze, aged 17. The club did not want to rush him into the team but he was simply too good not to play. The reliance on young, energetic players playing in a high energy, high intensity gegenpressing system was evident.
It was in 2010/11 when Klopp’s side finally began to stamp their authority on the German game, with the signings of Robert Lewandowski, Shinji Kagawa and Lukasz Piszczek complimenting those already integrated into the unique system. Götze was 18, Lewandowski was 22, Hummels, Subotic and Sahin were all 21 and Blaszczykowski was 24. This young side went on to win the league, seven points ahead of second placed Bayer Leverkusen featuring the likes of Rene Adler, Manuel Friedrich, Michael Ballack, Arturo Vidal and Lars Bender.
Despite beginning the season with a loss, the side went on a 15 game unbeaten streak, featuring only one draw. The season after,they were to hold on to the League title, after securing new deals for Hummels, Götze and Roman Weidenfellder, this time by eight points. In January 2012, they secured the re-signing of Marco Reus from Borussia Monchengladbach, a player who remains pivotal in their side and attracts the interest of teams across the globe. In 2013, Die Schwarzgelben reached the Champions League final at Wembley, losing 2-1 to German counterparts Bayern Munich. Things have dipped for Klopp’s men since the final, in part down to the sales of Götze and Lewandowski to Bayern.
Now, how does this all compare to Pochettino? Well for a start, Mauricio was brought into the country by Southampton in January 2013 after impressing with a poor Espanyol side and keeping them up in his first season. He used tactics similar to current Marseille manager Marcelo Bielsa, which are similar to those used by Jurgen Klopp. Tottenham pinched the Argentine from Southampton in June 2014 after the sacking of the controversial Tim Sherwood. Whilst expectations in yet another transitional season were not as high, fans and the board alike wanted to see progress, entertaining football and some enjoyment.
The season has had some fantastic highs and some damaging lows, too, but it has been a season wherein Spurs fans have enjoyed watching the team. The youth players, the goals, Harry Kane, the last minute goals and a trip to Wembley have all played their part in a very memorable season. Pochettino’s use of the academy players Danny Rose, Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb, Andros Townsend and Harry Kane has allowed the fans to find the connection with the squad that was lost during the disastrous 2013/14 season, especially in the times of many mercenary players out for their pay packet.
What Klopp had that Pochettino hasn’t yet was the signings. Daniel Levy is known to run a tight ship but if Pochettino has any chances of succeeding at Spurs, he has to be rewarded with the time and money to implement his style. As has been evident this year, there are a host of players that Pochettino doesn’t see as part of his plans. The likes of Younes Kaboul, Etienne Capoue and Emmanuel Adebayor have been as good as frozen out due to their lack of ability and/or willingness to commit to the intense nature of Pochettino’s system. Vlad Chiriches, Mousa Dembele, Benjamin Stambouli, Roberto Soldado and even Andros Townsend or Erik Lamela are not certain of their futures at Tottenham. Whilst loanees Alex Pritchard and Dele Alli could come in and do a job, Spurs will require another two or three defenders, one to two midfielders and at least one striker to have the squad depth needed to last a season. Head of Recruitment, Paul Mitchell, will be responsible for assisting Pochettino in signing young, energetic players to fit the system as he did at Southampton – and has already done with Dele Alli from his previous club, MK Dons.
Now it is obvious that the Premier League is the most competitive in the world, meaning it is a much tougher one to win than the Bundesliga and with Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool paying higher wages, it is tough to attract the talent to be able to crack that calibre of club. By paying the sixth highest wages in the league, Spurs are finishing in and around the positions where they should. The scouting ability of Mitchell and his team, as well as Spurs scouts being at numerous games, allows the club to look for the best talents across the world, with Alli crediting Pochettino and the facilities at Hotspur Way for him joining the club. Spurs fans will have to get used to signing players that may be unheard of and not world class for between £5-15 million to develop and potentially gain a good return on years later. This was the model used under previous Director of Football, Damien Comolli. Comolli had a team of 12 scouts that would travel to find the best young talents and he said, “The scout we had in Italy at the time is now the sporting director at Sampdoria after being sporting director at Monaco. The one we had in Spain is now head of recruitment for a big club in Spain. The one we had in Argentina is now head of recruitment for a club in Italy, so we had a strong scouting network which allowed us to sign all those players.” This showed in Comolli’s signings as he was the man responsible for bringing Dimitar Berbatov, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Younes Kaboul, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kevin-Prince Boateng to the club, with only one of those not playing an integral role at the club at some point in time – Boateng. Spurs will, as always, be linked to a host of names over the summer transfer window and it is the responsibility of the scouting team and Pochettino to find those that will fit the system the best.
Overall, whilst it will probably take longer, there is no reason why Pochettino cannot lead Spurs to glory; be it coveted Champions League places or regular trophies, but it will require Levy to be more patient and less involved, fans to take a step back from constant cynicism and the full commitment of playing staff in order to put Tottenham Hotspur back on the stage that the club was constantly on in the 1950’s and 60’s. Patience, though, is not a typical characteristic of many football fans.