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Where did it all go wrong for Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs?

A lunchtime kick-off at 12:30 on the 23rd February 2019 at Turf Moor was a massive turning point during Mauricio Pochettino’s reign as Tottenham boss, where Spurs lost 2-1 to Burnley, dealing a huge blow to a potential title challenge.

A win would’ve seen Tottenham two points off Manchester City in 1st and, unhappy with decisions in the game, Pochettino confronted referee Mike Dean after the final whistle, an action which later resulted in a touchline ban for the Argentine.

Including the loss to the Clarets, Spurs went five games without a win in the league, ending any hopes of the title heading back to [New] White Hart Lane.

The season wasn’t all over, however, with the Lilywhites beating Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and Ajax on the way to a Champions League final for the first time in their history; albeit with the help of VAR in Manchester and Lucas Moura in Amsterdam.

However, a Mo Salah penalty within the first two minutes of the final starting in Madrid set the precedence for the game where Spurs’ luck had finally run out, losing 2-0 to Liverpool in the final.

Surely after making it to the Champions League final Pochettino’s job was safe for the following season? Apparently not. A 1-1 draw to Sheffield United at home was Pochettino’s final game as Tottenham manager after a run of five games without a win in the league, leaving the club in 14th place.

So where exactly did it go wrong for Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham?

Defensive decline

Spurs had the best defensive record for both the 15/16 and 16/17 seasons in the Premier League, conceding an average of 0.84 a game over both seasons. 

However, the loss of both Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama through long-term injuries made it difficult for Spurs to cope defensively at the start of the 17/18 season. Both players then struggled to regain form which contributed to Spurs conceding more than a goal a game in 2018/19. In 2019/20, Spurs’ strong defence had all but crumbled.

The loss of Kyle Walker to Manchester City for £50m before the start of the 17/18 season was significant. Kieran Trippier was a dependable player, and was exceptional for England in their 2018 World Cup campaign, but he didn’t offer the same outlet as Walker and this left Pochettino short of pace at full back. Added to this was the ageing of the Belgian trio of Moussa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.

You could argue that none of these players were ever properly replaced in the transfer market, with squad players such as Ben Davies, Eric Dier and Trippier being selected by Pochettino but unable to steam the ever increasing amount of goals Spurs were conceding year on year. 

But despite these defensive shortcomings, you could argue the Argentine was never properly backed in the transfer market by Chairman Daniel Levy.

Lack of spending/poor signings

Prior to the 19/20 summer transfer window Mauricio Pochettino had a net spend of -£24.27m, with Spurs making no signings in the 19/20 season, the only club in Premier League history to do so.

Even when Pochettino made signings he was somewhat restricted due to money problems, leading to some questionable signings such as Moussa Sissoko for £30m, Vincent Janssen for £20m, both of whom failed to make any sort of impact on the team initially. Sissoko, it must be said, has gone on to become a crucial squad player with his consistency and tireless performances.

Many other signings flopped after Pochettino was unable to get his main targets because of the lack of investment from Levy. When Pochettino got his actual targets such as Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Heung-Min Son, it turned out to be worth the money.

After the Champions League run Pochettino finally had money to spend in the transfer window and bought his main targets of Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon, all of whom were unavailable to the Argentine for large parts of his tenure due to injuries.

Which leaves the question would Pochettino still be Spurs’ manager had Ndombele, Lo Celso and Sessegnon been fit and firing?

Trophies

It’s hard to ignore the fact that no silverware was won during Pochettino’s tenure with Spurs always falling at the final hurdle, finishing second in the league twice and reaching two finals, both of which they lost 2-0, one to Chelsea in the League Cup in 2014 and the other to Liverpool in the Champions League in 2019.

Had Pochettino have won against Chelsea in his first season his time as manager may have been completely different with Spurs kicking on and winning more trophies, but the constant falling at the final hurdle may have unsettled players as well as frustrating the team and fans and most importantly Levy.

Change of stadium

Moving from White Hart Lane to Wembley definitely affected the team with a lack of atmosphere at Wembley as many fans couldn’t justify the journey. During their final season at the Lane, Spurs went unbeaten winning 17 out of their 19 games.

The following season, Spurs played at Wembley and dropped 14 points out of a possible 57 which is far from title winning form. Demolishing White Hart Lane was awful timing and Spurs may have mounted a serious title challenge had they managed to turn White Hart Lane into a fortress.

Mauricio Pochettino, will go down as one of Spurs’ greatest managers in history thanks to how he turned the club around and if he was backed in the transfer market, you’d think his trophy drought would have been a different story.

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