When Mauricio Pochettino was appointed as Tottenham Hotspur’s head coach in 2014, he was awarded a five-year contract after showing ability at both Espanyol and Southampton. His promotion of 23 academy products in four years at Espanyol gave him a reputation of being a manager who was brave enough to give youth talents a chance when they were ready. At Southampton, he also integrated youth products into the first team and improved countless players, who have gone on to succeed at Southampton or fetch impressive transfer fees from the biggest clubs.
At Spurs, his first season was one of ups and downs with some incredible victories, often late in games, but also some disappointing defeats to sides lower in the league. In the end, a fifth place finish and a cup final left most content with the first season under Pochettino. This improvement on a near-disastrous season under the stewardship of first, André Villas-Boas and then Tim Sherwood, was one that must be built on. The way in which changes have been made behind the scenes hint that such a shift in power at the club might well be taking place.
In November, the Club brought in Paul Mitchell to fulfil the role of ‘Head of Recruitment’. Mitchell was highly regarded at Southampton for identifying and scouting lesser known talents that would fit the bill in Pochettino’s system. Upon Pochettino’s departure, the Saints suffered an exodus of playing staff and Mitchell was amongst those who were responsible for bringing in Graziano Pellè and Dušan Tadic, amongst others, who were both scouted by Mitchell before Ronald Koeman had recommended them as potential signings. Later in the season arrived Rob Mackenzie from Leicester City as the ‘Head of Player Identification’, a role in which Mackenzie will work closely with Mitchell to identify players capable of fitting into Pochettino’s high energy system.
Only yesterday, Jose Lozano announced his move to Tottenham from Spanish side Talavera FC to work under Mitchell in the scouting team in the Iberian region, allowing the club to identify up and coming talents from the lower leagues in the area. This, however, seemingly leaves little room for Baldini. There were suggestions he may have had his contract terminated after a poor summer of 2013, but he may be kept on purely for the names in his phonebook.
This new setup allows Daniel Levy to also take a backward step in the player recruitment role and he is purely able to focus on tying up deals and other financial aspects of the club. The financial side of the club is clearly important to Levy and ENIC who, it must be remembered, are an investment company. The club announced a 22% increase in revenue at £180.5million. Whilst many fans bemoan the prioritising of financial stability, keeping the books balanced during the building of a new stadium is essential. Praise therefore must, begrudgingly, go to Arsenal for the way they continuously succeeded on the field whilst maintaining stability off it, too.
Praise must also go to Levy for the improvements in the academy structure over the past few years. With five regulars in the starting eleven last season originating from the academy and more to follow, the timing could not be better due to the financials behind the stadium. Players such as Milos Veljkovic, Tom Glover, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Kyle Walker-Peters and Marcus Edwards stand great chances of becoming first team regulars at Tottenham in the near future. The funding behind the academy and Hotspur Way has been evident to all and if recent plans are to be believed, Spurs could follow Southampton’s model of housing players on site or nearby – a model that led to the production line at Southampton involving Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana.
With the bricks being laid over the summer, the new stadium is also taking shape well. The year away from N17 has to be decided upon; Wembley Stadium and Stadium MK being the two front-runners to host Spurs’ home games for the 2017/18 season Upon completion, the revenue gained will allow for further financial spending on transfers and wages. The table below shows how the wage structure of the top clubs in 2014/15 corresponds to the average finishes in the Premier League table – also showing how the likes of Newcastle and QPR pay huge amounts yet receive minimal success, indicating the poor way in which both are run.
Whilst all of the above sounds incredibly positive there is one problem standing in Spurs’ way – the current top four. All four clubs are financially stronger and are able to boast much better personnel. In the near future, it is difficult to see how either Spurs, or Liverpool, will be able to pip one of Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea. All four boast numerous world-class players whilst Spurs only have Hugo Lloris who can compete on that level. This makes the importance of building the stadium, and fast, imperative to on field success. The quicker Spurs can move into the new stadium, the sooner N17 stands a chance of seeing Champions League football once again. It might be wise to focus on winning the Europa League, leading to a Champions League spot, for the foreseeable future – a decision that has to be made with footballing and financial interests at heart.
Until then, it is key that Levy backs Pochettino and his team. No manager has received such support from ENIC and this is a positive sign that Levy might just have found his man; good football when played to it’s best, youth integration and doesn’t require marquee signings to make the team work. Once the deadwood has been shifted and Pochettino has a group that he can trust and that believe in him, the future might just be more positive at White Hart Lane. What must be recognised is the different style of player Spurs will now be looking to sign. Whilst fans were angered at Spurs passing up the chances to pass up on Payet, Shaqiri and even Van der Vaart, it must be understood that players need to be brought in that can fit the system and press for 90 minutes. As good as Van der Vaart was for Tottenham, Redknapp’s much less demanding system still saw the Dutchman substituted after 70 minutes more often than not. Players have to be brought in with the view to improving the team whilst playing in the desired fashion.
Even the much maligned Emmanuel Adebayor has commented on Pochettino’s impressive man management, “This the third or fourth manager in two or three years so we just have to stop it now being about the manager. He’s a good manager and we just have to find a way so that we can try to understand what he wants to tell us and how he wants us to play and put that on the pitch.” The man of the moment, Harry Kane also said, “The manager has done a great job this year. He’s used a lot of young players and that’s a great starting point. Everyone is fully behind the coach and he’s behind the players.” Both provide viewpoints from different ends of the Pochettino spectrum but show his ability to relate to players personally and tender to their needs as individual players as well as part of the collective team.
If the right amount and quality of players are brought in over the summer of 2015 and Levy doesn’t hover over the red button should things not take shape immediately, the Pochettino era could be the long lasting one Tottenham fans have desired since the 1970’s.