Time is running out for Mauricio Pochettino’s underachieving Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino and his Tottenham side were left to rue yet another defeat and early exit in the Champions League. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Time is running out for Mauricio Pochettino’s underachieving Tottenham

LONDON: When Juventus’ triumphant defender Giorgio Chiellini made a throwaway comment in the aftermath of his side’s Champions League victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, it was used by the press as little more than an easy soundbite for the next day’s newspapers.
“It was very difficult, and we knew that before the match and also before the first game, but we believed in the win, because Tottenham always create chances to score — but they always miss something at the end,” the Italian said. “It’s the history of Tottenham.”
And looking at that history, not to mention how much is in the club’s coffers, it is hard to disagree with him. “Missing something at the end” seems a more fitting adage than Tottenham’s current motto “To dare is to do.” For all the wealth the club has accrued in the Premier League era and the plethora of talented players who have pulled on the famous white jersey over the years, it is nearly six decades since the north London club last won a league title. They have won just one League Cup since the turn of the century.
It is true that Tottenham have always played the game “the right way” — N17’s finest have always been proponents of a slick, incisive brand of football — but all too often the end result has been missing. For decades, Spurs sides have shown brief flashes of style, but not enough substance. They have promised so much, and delivered far too little.
Yet, when manager Mauricio Pochettino arrived in 2014, there was a distinct sense that Tottenham Hotspur could, at last, fulfil their potential. There was palpable hope that they could muscle in on the big boys of Europe and warrant their place at the top table of English football.
The affable Argentine very quickly created something magical at White Hart Lane, and bar a few teething problems, has continued to create it at Spurs’ current temporary home of Wembley. At the dawn of each season, Spurs are tipped as potential champions of England. This season, they were a lot of people’s “dark horses” for a run at European glory (this writer included). And then, on Wednesday evening, that burning flame of hope in the hearts of Tottenham fans everywhere was unceremoniously extinguished in three crazy second-half minutes. Juventus showed all their experience and nous to win the tie, their “will to win” was there for all to see at Wembley.
And it prompted the question: How long can this Spurs side show promise before we have to deem them — given the talent they have — as one of the biggest crop of underachievers in the history of English football? After every near miss, after every heartbreaking knockout defeat, Pochettino says his side are “getting closer” or that they are “still growing into something great.”
Even on Wednesday, the Argentine said that he was very disappointed, that the defeat was “part of growing” and that his side “will keep going.” He has been saying that since Leicester City inexplicably pipped them to the title two years ago.
And almost weekly, football experts say that with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Pochettino at the club, a trophy is “just around the corner” for this Tottenham side — that they are within touching distance of becoming a great side.
Unfortunately, nobody remembers sides that almost won trophies or nearly became a great side.
The truth is, time is running out for Pochettino. The likes of Kane and Alli, or Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier, will not hang around forever. The nucleus of this almost-great team will disappear without any tangible evidence of success.
And while Pochettino is undoubtedly a very talented manager, without titles or trophies, he could end up going down in history as the man who blew it with one of the most promising and exciting teams the English game has ever seen.


Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

Updated 18 December 2018
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Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

  • Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad
  • A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides

LONDON: Five years after being snubbed for the Manchester United job immediately after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho has once again been unceremoniously rejected by the club after two-and-a-half fractious and tumultuous years at the helm.
And the truth is, it was an inevitable divorce.
Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad, openly criticized board members for a lack of backing in the transfer window and the majority of fans had started to turn on the so-called “Special One” and his tactics.
And while they would never do so publicly, no doubt several of the players who had fallen foul of Mourinho’s wrath were privately breathing a sigh of relief when the club announced that Mourinho had left the club with “immediate effect” on Tuesday.
Indeed, the player Mourinho clashed with the most — £89 million ($112 million) midfielder Paul Pogba — deleted a controversial social media post of himself smiling after the news broke.
That controversy was a microcosm of the French World Cup winner’s stormy relationship with Mourinho.
But the former Juventus player, who retuned to Manchester United having already been with the club during the Ferguson era, was repeatedly criticized by Mourinho during his reign and Pogba was stripped of the United vice-captaincy earlier this season.
The pair were captured having a frosty exchange on the training ground as Mourinho grew angry with his key midfielder’s lethargic performances, dropping him on several occasions to spark talk he would be sold by the end of the season.
And even on the pitch, the writing has been on the wall for a while.
A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides, as the Portuguese became more and more embittered and paranoid in his dealings with the media.
The final straw for the club was Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, who United usurped as the biggest club in England under Ferguson’s 27-year reign. And the Scot was seen shaking his head as he watched his dynasty unravel in front of his eyes at the hands of United’s bitterest of rivals.
While the Merseyside club battle it out for the Premier League title with Manchester City and Tottenham — all playing a refreshing, exciting brand of football — United find themselves 19 points adrift of the summit and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Mourinho’s stagnant, defensive approach jarred with supporters, some of whom have only known the rampant attack-minded approach the club used to such devastating efficacy under Ferguson.
Mourinho was brought in to bring back those glory days after David Moyes and then Dutchman Louis van Gaal struggled to step out of Ferguson’s shadow.
And despite first-season League Cup and Europa League titles, he has failed miserably since. And he has bought himself little good grace with fans and officials, finding new excuses and ways to blame each latest defeat on his players, while ungraciously reminding critics of previous successes at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
But this ignominious end for Mourinho in what he called his “dream job” leaves him at a crossroads in his career. Few clubs will have been inspired by his playing style with a highly-talented team, even fewer will want to deal with the off-field tantrums and constant bickering.
Having arrived in English football as a breath of fresh air, he leaves it (for now) like a foul odor. With the prospect of no club to manage, no trophies to win and no teams to build, Mourinho is now much less the “Special One,” and more and more likely to be the “Tainted One.”