Pochettino From A Saints Perspective - No Plan B And Poor In The Cups?

Tottenham Hotspur have finally appointed a new manager. After months of speculation, endless lists of names and odds regurgitated from bookmakers who couldn't believe their luck, Mauricio Pochettino has been handed a five-year contract after being allowed to leave Southampton after a reasonably successful spell in charge.

A lot has been written in anticipation of this appointment from a Tottenham perspective, and the feeling towards Pochettino has been growing steadily more positive. With that in mind, site editor Raj Bains contacted Southampton fan, SaintsWeb owner and Rule The Roost podcast guest Steve Grant to shed some light on the new man from their perspective, knowing that you can't really gauge a man until you've seen him, his regime and his teams consistently first hand.

We asked for an honest assessment of the pros and cons of having Mauricio Pochettino manage your club - this is what we received back.


So, the ‘North London Yobbos' (© Rupert Lowe, 2001) liked what they've seen down on the South Coast and have strolled in and poached another Southampton manager at the height of his popularity. Spurs fans will undoubtedly be hoping that things turn out rather better for Mauricio Pochettino than they did for Glenn Hoddle.

From a Saints perspective, we can't really be too surprised that a man who was appointed in a somewhat underhand manner has departed in much the same fashion, loyalty in football only truly exists with the fans these days and we can lament it for as long as we like, but the facts will not change – money in football talks, and Spurs have plenty of that.

I expect that Pochettino would only have signed for a significant pay rise (from an already significant £2m+ salary) and long-term contract, and it looks like that's exactly what he's got, with a 5-year deal which secures his family's future for life, even if Daniel Levy's record with his managers doesn't inspire long-term confidence.

In terms of what Spurs are getting, the style of play has been fairly well documented over the course of the season, with a fluid front three or four able to interchange positions at will, and two deep-lying midfielders protecting the back four, able to drop in at full-back when the actual full-backs get forward to support the attack.

It'll be very interesting to see if the attacking interchange is possible with the players at Spurs' disposal – while Rickie Lambert's work in deeper and wider positions often goes unnoticed, I wouldn't be entirely confident that either Roberto Soldado or Emmanuel Adebayor will be capable or willing to adopt a similar role, so Pochettino may need to adapt his methods to fit the squad he has to work with, at least initially. Whether that impacts on the effectiveness of the system or not, only time will tell.

However, while Plan A has won us many plaudits over the course of the last two years (and it is important to state how much of an impact Nigel Adkins had on the squad before his departure), Plan B has looked, er, non-existent, really.

If Plan A doesn't work, as it tended not to do against inferior teams who are happy to sit deep and deny any space in behind the back 4, there was a feeling of needing something special to happen to break them down. Spurs fans will already be aware of how frustrating that can be!

A lot will be expected of the full-backs in both attacking and defending, which means they'll need outstanding fitness and stamina. Positional awareness isn't actually that important in those areas because of the defensive midfielders, which is just as well if Kyle Walker's going to keep getting picked, but those defensive midfielders will need to have excellent awareness as well as the ability to give the ball to more technically gifted team mates quickly when they win the ball back.

You already have the perfect goalkeeper for Pochettino's game, with Hugo Lloris comfortably the best in the league at playing behind a high defensive line. Even the lack of pace in the centre backs won't necessarily be an issue – Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren are hardly Usain Bolt, but we were rarely beaten by a ball over the top last season, and that was with the somewhat erratic Artur Boruc between the sticks.

One aspect of Pochettino's reign at St Mary's that hasn't sat well with many Saints fans is the (non) performance in cup competitions. Both the League Cup and FA Cup were plainly winnable for any club without any fears of relegation, and yet we tossed away relatively good draws in both for the “glamour” of finishing 8th.

It's difficult to think that anyone's going to look back in a decade and reminisce about “that time we finished above Newcastle and Stoke”, when we could have been celebrating an actual trophy win. It's not as if we've had loads of those to celebrate before. He has been outspoken in his disdain for the Europa League, as well, so I wouldn't expect him to take that competition particularly seriously.

Jesus Perez, his second in command, will almost certainly be wheeled out to do the pre-match press conferences for the cup games, where there's no contractual obligation for the manager to do them (as exists in the Premier League).

It'll be interesting to see if pressure is applied on him to conduct his press conferences without the use of an interpreter – his English is certainly good enough these days, and it was perceived to be a massive cop-out for large parts of last season, emphasised when he actually corrected his interpreter's English in one post-match interview!

I bear no ill will on Spurs as a club (not since you booted 'Arry out, at least), but it would be rather amusing if history were to repeat itself after Hoddle left for greener pastures only to discover the grass isn't always greener.

Pochettino had the opportunity to build something genuinely exciting at Southampton, based around a core of the national team, and I suppose there will be a lot of bitterness and resentment that he walked away barely 18 months after we gave him his big break in this country.


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