Premier League

Mauricio Pochettino: Would a Shock Return to Tottenham Be a Step Forward for the Club?

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Following the departure of the “Special one”- and a temporary spell of Ryan Mason- Spurs are on the hunt for their new manager for the 2021/22 campaign. Recent reports have linked Mauricio Pochettino with a sensational return to the North London club where he first made his name as one of the best coaches in Europe- reaching a Champions League final with such little resources provided by the board. The big question mark surrounds whether Spurs would be making a mistake after the terrible start to the 2019/20 season that got the Argentine sacked in the first place. So let’s take a deeper look.

Overview of Pochettino’s Spurs Career

Mauricio Pochettino is seen by many supporters as the best Spurs manager to have never won a trophy. Joining from Southampton in 2014, he changed the outlook and expectations of Tottenham Hotspur, and after four consecutive seasons of Champions League finishes, it was the best run Spurs had ever been on in the Premier League era.

Pochettino led Tottenham to their highest Premier League finish in the 2016/17 campaign, falling just one place behind the winners, Chelsea. He followed this with top four finishes for the next two seasons including FA Cup semi-final defeats on two occasions and a League Cup final defeat to Chelsea in 2015.

The biggest accomplishment under Pochettino came in the 2018/19 season where the North Londoners went on a sensational run in the Champions League despite being on the brink of exit in the group stage. Thanks to a Lucas Moura equaliser at the Nou Camp, Tottenham’s secured their place in the round of 16. Pochettino’s men overcame a Dortmund team drenched in quality which led to a dramatic affair with English rivals Manchester City in the quarter finals. Spurs took a 1-0 home win to the Etihad where VAR stole the show to deny Raheem Sterling a late winner and instead send Tottenham to the semi-final.

Ajax were three goals to the good in Amsterdam, when Lucas Moura caused late drama by grabbing a last-minute goal to cement his hat-trick and Tottenham’s place in the final in one of the greatest nights in their history. A defeat in the final to Liverpool caused a Champions League hangover that led to a rapid decline at the club over the next 12 months.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – MAY 08: Lucas Moura of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Ajax and Tottenham Hotspur at the Johan Cruyff Arena on May 08, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )

The 2019/20 summer transfer window was a big one for spurs after a hefty pay-out for their aforementioned impressive run. They showed promise; breaking their transfer record, signing Frenchman Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon, as well as the additions of Giovanni Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon. This was arguably the first time Levy had backed Pochettino with ambition and Tottenham fans were optimistic for the upcoming season.

However things did not go to plan; Spurs started the season poorly, winning just three of their opening 12 Premier league games and defeats in Europe and the League Cup did not bode well for the future of Pochettino at the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Tottenham suffered a demoralising 7-2 thrashing at the merciless hands of Bayern Munich who went on to win the competition. This coupled with an embarrassing defeat to Colchester United on penalties in the third round of the League Cup washed away any remaining optimism the Tottenham faithful had. This run of form was the beginning of the end for the Argentinian at Spurs and he was sacked by Chairman, Daniel Levy, just a month after the Bayern Munich defeat. In November 2019- after a draw at home to Sheffield United- Pochettino was relieved of his duties.

The Special One’s Return to London

Jose Mourinho was brought in less than 24 hours after Spurs announced the sacking of their former manager which saw Jose dragged out a year’s break from the beautiful game- previously having been sacked by Manchester United.

He started life in north London with a 3-2 win against West Ham and- to an extent- managed to settle the ship that had begun to sink at the start of the season. The campaign had a mixed bag of results; from defeats to Norwich in the FA Cup and exiting the Champions League against RB Leipzig, to wins over Arsenal and Leicester to guide Spurs to a sixth place, Europa League finish.

Jose’s first summer transfer window was an active one, spending smart and not large. He brought in Pierre Emile Højbjerg from Southampton, sending Kyle Walker-Peters the other way, as well as Matt Doherty from Wolves. But the big ones were the incredible return of Gareth Bale on a loan deal from Real Madrid and exciting young left back Sergio Reguilon, from the same club.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 23: Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur at The King Power Stadium on May 23, 2021 in Leicester, England. A limited number of fans will be allowed into Premier League stadiums as Coronavirus restrictions begin to ease in the UK. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Tottenham’s 2020/21 season was an emotional rollercoaster for Spurs supporters to say the least, starting with a defeat at home to Everton. From here everything went up and Tottenham went on an unbeaten league run until December with Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son looking like the best partnership in Europe under Mourinho’s effective counter-attacking system. Results including a record breaking 6-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford and wins against Manchester City and Arsenal, all of which saw Tottenham lead the Premier League for four weeks- before a loss at home to Liverpool started a significant decline in form.

Spurs lost four of their next five matches including Potter’s Brighton and London-rivals Chelsea. Tottenham were playing with no identity and looked lost on the pitch when called upon to perform- Jose needed to change things fast. Their style of play had become too defensive and Spurs would end up sitting back after one goal, a tactic that would ultimately fail.

A League Cup run and a win in the semi-final over Brentford took Spurs to face Manchester City for a chance at an elusive piece of silverware. This helped temper Spurs fans’ anger, although a nine-goal thriller saw them crash out to Everton in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Goodison Park.

Manchester City pulled away at the top of the table and a poor set of results in the league made a Champions League place look an uneasy task for Spurs- especially considering the pick-up in form of clubs around them. Losses to Manchester United and a shocking 3-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League quarter-final led to Jose Mourinho sacked in mid-April, surprisingly just days before their league cup final against Manchester City. A time which many believed was strange seeing Jose’s success in cup finals.

Ryan Mason’s Honour

Former Spurs midfielder Ryan Mason was placed in charge as interim manager until the end of the season following his success with the U18’s and youth coaching. His first game in charge resulted in a win over Southampton, but this couldn’t be recreated against Manchester City, to whom they lost a goal to nil. This was followed by all remaining Champions League hopes squandered after a loss to Bielsa’s Leeds on the road. Mason did a good enough job for an interim coach and ended the season seventh, defeating Leicester away 4-2 and securing a place in the shiny new Europa Conference League.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 19: Ryan Mason, Interim Manager of Tottenham Hotspur looks on following the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 19, 2021 in London, England. A limited number of fans will be allowed into Premier League stadiums as Coronavirus restrictions begin to ease in the UK. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

What’s Next? A Pochettino Return?

The club confirmed Ryan Mason would not be returning as the manager of Tottenham next season and the search for a new manager is now underway with names like Antonio Conte, Erik Ten Hag and- of course- Mauricio Pochettino circulating in the media as potential successors.

Many fans have called for the return of Poch and believed he should never have lost his job in the first place. The former Spurs manager is now at PSG where he has been since January 2021 enjoying two domestic cup trophies but ultimately failing at their main goal of Champions League success, as well as coming up short to Lille OSC in Ligue 1.

Rumours have circulated from many well respected media outlets in Spain, France and England that the Argentine is interested in a potential return to Tottenham as a result of a fall out with the Sporting Director, Leonard Araújo at PSG. Sky Sports have also suggested that Pochettino is currently in talks with Tottenham over a return. The main obstacle, however, is whether PSG are willing to let him go and whether Spurs would be prepared to pay compensation to the French giants to get Mauricio out of his contract and back to N17.

Mauricio Pochettino with PSG star Kylian Mbappe.
STRASBOURG, FRANCE – APRIL 10: Mauricio Pochettino, coach of Paris SG, talks to Kylian Mbappe of Paris SG during the Ligue 1 match between RC Strasbourg and Paris SG at Stade de la Meinau on April 10, 2021 in Strasbourg, France. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

The main question surrounds whether this would be the right thing to do just 18 months after his sacking. Some fans believe the manager had lost the confidence of the players and that there is no coming back from a changing room loss. However, many share the opinion that Levy and owners ENIC are the main culprits of Pochettino’s decline due to a lack of financial backing. Another factor could be that a Pochettino reunion with Harry Kane could potentially help keep him at the club if he believes in what the Argentine could achieve in his second tenure. This would be huge for the future of the North London club.

When speaking to Gary Lineker in 2019, the former Spurs manager suggested that Tottenham had to undergo a “painful rebuild” where players would be sold and new ones would be brought in. Many have lost faith in Levy’s commitment to this rebuild.

To conclude, the argument as to whether it would be a step in the right direction to reappoint Mauricio Pochettino is that, whilst some might say ‘no’ due to his failure to achieve the main aim of winning silverware, the fact of the matter is that he helped establish Tottenham as a club consistently in Europe’s biggest competition and contributed significantly in increasing the club size both financially and as a whole. The consensus from the fans- and myself being a Spurs fan- is that he did not finish the project that he started thanks to a lack of investment from the ownership over the course of his tenure at Tottenham; not down to Mauricio individually.

Furthermore, if Poch re-signs with Spurs with Daniel Levy promising the full financial backing of a rebuild, it would certainly be a step forward as it’s likely he’d be able to achieve what he set out to do in his first spell and bring cup glory back to this great football club.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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