Friday 13 December 2019

Pochettino's lean and mean lions ready to roar in City showdown

'Since Mauricio Pochettino was appointed manager in May 2014 the club have turned a profit of around £10m in the transfer market' Photo: Reuters
'Since Mauricio Pochettino was appointed manager in May 2014 the club have turned a profit of around £10m in the transfer market' Photo: Reuters

Jason Burt

For the Leicester fairytale, read the Tottenham Hotspur miracle. Since Mauricio Pochettino was appointed manager in May 2014 the club have turned a profit of around £10m in the transfer market but have been transformed into serious title contenders.

To put that in perspective, during the four transfer windows that Pochettino has been at Spurs, Manchester City - tomorrow's opponents - have a net spend of around £160m but sit a point behind them in third place.

"Maybe it is more for you than me to say it's a miracle or not but the thing is that after four transfer windows we are in profit, no?" Pochettino said.

"I think our philosophy is maybe different to another club. It is to build today a strong team for the future, setting the basis, and the good job that we have done is reflected in the results and is a consequence."

In profit, with a reduced wage bill, average age to the squad and numbers. Spurs are very much leaner. Leaner, also literally, in the exacting physical conditioning Pochettino has demanded.

Pochettino's demeanour has shifted in recent weeks. Asked whether he can bring Spurs their first league title since 1961, the Argentinian said: "The theory is perfect but we need to deliver it. Why not? We need to believe. We need only belief and then we will see what happens."

There is a growing confidence, especially when Pochettino declares that this is fun. "Is it the most enjoyable time of my career? Yes, maybe," he said. But then Pochettino knows that his stock is soaring.

Spurs are, perhaps understandably, irritated when the merits of Pochettino as a future Manchester United or Chelsea manager are debated but, without a doubt, other clubs are watching his progress.

What is also fascinating is that while much of the attention has focused on how young and vibrant Pochettino's team is - most notably with 19-year-old Dele Alli - the manager himself is only 43. Of the managers in the top four he is 19 years younger than the next youngest; City's Manuel Pellegrini. Arsene Wenger and Claudio Ranieri are also in their 60s.

There is a clear approach with chairman Daniel Levy, who is spending more time on the plans for Spurs' new stadium, allowing Pochettino, along with head of recruitment Paul Mitchell - who followed him from Southampton - and head of coaching and player development John McDermott, much more control in shaping the football side of the club. They are a very tight triumvirate.

"The objective was to set out our main principles, our philosophy on the team, on the club and we are happy and are in a good place so far," Pochettino said. "It's important to have a plan. But you need to take positive results or the plan is in the bin, no?"

He was also at pains to play down suggestions that tomorrow's encounter could be "decisive". But if Spurs beat City the attention and the pressure on them will grow.

After last Saturday's defeat by Spurs, Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores approvingly described Pochettino's team as "animals"; the best team he had faced this season. "Like lions, no?"

Pochettino said. "I think this is what managers want." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Man City v Tottenham, Live, Sky Sports 1, tomorrow, 4.15

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