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Pochettino back to being worst Premier League manager ever

Wednesday 30th January 2019
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When, not if Mauricio Pochettino wins his first trophy, be it with Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain or some hitherto unmooted third party, the theme struck across social media will be inevitability. Words and phrases like finally, at long last, it had to happen and you knew it was coming will ring out and the chorus will be led by the same people who have taken the opportunity presented by last week's Chelsea penalty victory in the EFL Cup semifinal to metaphorically pick at his vital managerial body like it was a carcass. Metaphorically because societal norms still prohibit the literal lest an unseemly fight breaks out over which media agencies get the eyeballs. 

Whenever Tottenham lose a critical match, the knives come out. Never mind that Pochettino could only attempt to protect rather than build on Spurs' slim lead in the two-legged EFL Cup affair or compete much at all in the FA Cup against fully invested Crystal Palace with three of his four primary attacking weapons unavailable. Son Heung-min joined South Korea in early January to contest the Asian Cup. Harry Kane's ankle and Dele Alli's hamstring shelve the pair until March. Factor in the club's abstention from last summer's transfer window along with Pochettino's underpublicised feud with Dutch striker Vincent Janssen and the squad must suffer through a severe manpower disadvantage.

Despite mitigating circumstances, the overriding opinion appears to be Tottenham should have defeated a 'beaten-down' Chelsea side. Oh, to be Maurizio rather than Mauricio. Sarri's healthy strikers who can't find the target are apparently a far more debilitating problem than having none at all.

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Timing in both the competitive and overall sense is the Argentine's worst enemy. Not only is he crippled by forces beyond his control [injury, international duty, Chairman Daniel Levy's impenetrable wallet], the former Espanyol and Southampton boss lives in the Age of Instant Gratification. Forget 'what have you done for me lately?'. Social media wants to know what Pochettino has done in the past 15 minutes.

For the greater portion of the online community, one's last success or failure defines them until the next transforms them yet again. Mauricio Pochettino doesn't fit such a world. He isn't a reactionary who twists and jerks with each pinprick. He's not instant coffee. The 46-year-old percolates. Over five years with Tottenham, his squad improves slowly but steadily.

The sole disappointing aspect of Pochettino's project is that he hasn't won silverware. People don't like to wait. Amazingly, that includes football fans who think that a team who scores a goal every half hour on average is prolific. Football is all about patient build-ups. It is also all about winning now. Few followers see any conflict in those positions.

Save for Levy and Tottenham, gone are the days when a club will give a manager half a decade or more to build his team. Sir Alex Ferguson won his first league title in his seventh campaign. In the previous six, he came up with one trophy, an FA Cup in his third season. These days, that wouldn't have been sufficient. When he capitulated the First Division to Leeds United the year before winning the inaugural Premier League, a contemporary board would have reached its limit if it hadn't already

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The modern fan doesn't like the comparison between Pochettino and Ferguson. They'll point out SAF did win that FA Cup two years and counting sooner than the Argentine. They'll ignore that in the First Division economy of the late 80s, United were far and away the richest club, not one slugging it out with wealthier sides as Spurs must. The Red Devils could have bought the title whenever they chose.

When you mention the fact, naysayers counter that stakes are so much higher today; teams can't afford to wait. Of course, they can afford to wait. They're sitting on obscene piles of money, ffs. Again, excepting Levy and Spurs, they simply lack the steel and discipline to chart a course then stick to it, making only minor corrections to hold to their aim.

For seven years, Sir Alex Ferguson percolated then served up the finest cup of coffee any fan could desire, winning 13 Premier Leagues, four more FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions Leagues and numerous other UEFA and FA trinkets over two decades.

No guarantee exists that Pochettino's Spurs are building towards the same consistent dominance as Ferguson's United. Critics will tell you it will never happen again. The easiest way to be proven correct is to harry and harass anyone with the desire and ambition to try; attack them at every opportunity; do your best to turn every crack into a chasm.

Mauricio Pochettino is finely balanced on the edge of a legendary or forgettable career. The only way he can ensure it's the former is by never listening to his critics.

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.


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