Tuesday 21 November 2017

John Giles: Don't rush to judge Spurs based on one game

Tottenham Hotspur's Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino (L) and Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (R) walk off at half time in the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 28, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF /
Tottenham Hotspur's Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino (L) and Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (R) walk off at half time in the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 28, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF /
John Giles

John Giles

OVER the top criticism is nothing new in football but I thought the response to Spurs' defeat by Manchester United set a new standard in foolishness.

A single goal made Mauricio Pochettino a mug.

Tonight, Pochettino takes another step along the road to consistent improvement by trying to go one better against Real Madrid than Spurs did in the Bernabeu fixture but you would think from the reaction to that 1-0 defeat that he might as well throw his hat at the job.

I’m all for detailed analysis but you can’t take one match in isolation and rush to judgements simply because that’s what coverage seems to demand now.

It’s almost as if everyone starts from scratch for every game, no matter what has gone before or what the circumstances are.

As far as that game was concerned, it was no master class in tactics from Jose Mourinho and if I was Pochettino, I would be quite happy with the condition of my team heading into a big Champions League tie.

Dele Alli should have won it but didn’t and Harry Kane wasn’t on the pitch so overall, Pochettino might have hated the result but he saw no reason to doubt what he is doing and plenty that will have encouraged him.

At the root of the bashing Pochettino took after the game was the reputation I spoke about last week, which Alex Ferguson summed up nicely with his “it’s only Spurs” remark.

It was almost as if pundits and journalists were waiting for Spurs to trip up so that they could wheel out what I believe is now an inaccurate assessment.

Hand on heart, I’ve had thoughts like that myself several times for what I’ve seen various Spurs teams do on the pitch and Daniel Levy off it, but not this time.

It’s not “only Spurs” any more and I think Pochettino must take the credit for finally shaking free of decades of failure to give them a real chance of justifying the often misguided belief that Tottenham is a big club.

That might seem odd in the week after they lost to a title rival, a weakness over the last few years which seemed to back up the notion that ultimately, this Spurs team is as brittle as any other.

Pochettino is a young manager with a team of young players and they are learning as they go, I think that is obvious to everyone.

A single defeat in a single game does not delete all that has gone before, just as that draw against Madrid didn’t mean Spurs had stepped onto an entirely different level with that result.

Madrid are struggling and not the test they were last season but the draw was still evidence that Pochettino and his players are absorbing the lessons from last season about what has to be done to progress in the Champions League.

With that will come increased confidence when they go toe-to-toe with the big guns in the Premier League.

This a huge opportunity for Spurs and I sincerely hope Daniel Levy understands it for what it is.

I know it’s no easy thing to build a stadium in the middle of a big city and the shots I’ve seen of the new construction rising into the London skyline are very impressive indeed.

It’s been tough to adapt to Wembley as well, another obstacle which Pochettino seems to have got to grips with.

Both Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp have had to deal with stadium development on the job and the impact that has on revenue and player recruitment and so far, I would have to say that Pochettino is managing better than either of them.

In Klopp’s case, it was a short enough period while the main stand at Anfield was redeveloped; in Wenger’s much, much longer.

For Pochettino, it is perhaps the difference between being able to hunt for a playmaker in the Luka Modric mould, a move which I truly believe would lift Spurs to a new level.

If Levy never did anything else but somehow find the money to bring in a good one, a lad who can run a game at this level, Pochettino would be able to finally bury the notion that Spurs will fall short - because that’s what always happens.

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