With three Tottenham stars running down their deals and another trio who know the club tried and failed to sell them in the summer… Mauricio Pochettino’s magic spell has been broken
- Mauricio Pochettino led Tottenham to the Champions League final last season
- All of which seemed a very distant memory as he reacted to defeat on Tuesday
- He launched a grenade about the ‘different agendas’ operating within his squad
- It was akin to an early phase of one of Jose Mourinho’s exit strategies
Only four months have passed since Tottenham’s players walked barefoot through fire for their manager and snapped arrows with their throats.
Mauricio Pochettino had asked them to trust him and he led them to the Champions League final as Spurs fans sang about his magic touch.
All of which seemed a very distant memory as he reacted to defeat in the Carabao Cup at Colchester United of League Two by launching a grenade about the ‘different agendas’ operating within his squad.
Mauricio Pochettino led Tottenham to last season’s Champions League final against the odds
It was akin to an early phase of one of Jose Mourinho’s exit strategies as Pochettino told how he had seen these issues looming from afar and how his players must re-establish their ‘mental connection’ and ‘togetherness’.
Thoughts flicked to Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, who are running down the final year of their contracts to secure lucrative free transfers next summer. Players inside the camp with ambitions elsewhere will certainly eat away at Pochettino.
Eriksen, Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen — 32 and left out at the start of the season — can sign pre-contract agreements in January for a move abroad next summer. But Spurs must take responsibility for the instability.
Danny Rose, Serge Aurier and Victor Wanyama know the club wanted to sell them to raise funds. Wanyama had all but signed for Bruges with a £14million fee agreed until the deal broke down over financial details. The Belgians rejected a request for another year on the contract and Spurs were unwilling to consider an incentive for him to leave.
He remains in London with a contract until 2021, unwanted, rarely used, hardly motivated and plain awful at Colchester.
Tom Lapslie slotted home the winning penalty to ensure Colchester beat Spurs on Tuesday
League Two side Colchester celebrate their unlikely win over Premier League Tottenham
Tottenham’s agenda is ruled by the balance sheet. It was ever thus for chairman Daniel Levy but more than ever since building the new stadium at a cost exceeding £1billion.
Losing Eriksen and Alderweireld for free will hurt Levy’s pride and profit margins just as much as the idea of wandering minds and lost focus will erode the positive energy which Pochettino values.
Managing the turnover of players — selling at the right time and for the right price — has always been crucial to overall strategy.
For years, managers down the divisions would operate to an old-school mantra that ‘if you don’t get rid of the players they’ll get rid of you’.
Never has it been more crucial to finances as it is in the modern age, however, when a Premier League contract can bring a lifetime of security. Many of Pochettino’s grumbles can be traced back to this theme: the failure to freshen his squad.
At Colchester, he bemoaned the absence of ‘natural space’ in the squad to stimulate the growth of young players. He compared it to five years ago, when he cleared out Younes Kaboul, Etienne Capoue, Paulinho and Emmanuel Adebayor to encourage the development of Eric Dier, Ryan Mason, Dele Alli and Harry Kane.
Lucas Moura shows his frustration after Colchester beat Tottenham in a penalty shootout
Losing Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld (pictured) for free will hurt Daniel Levy’s pride
When the manager speaks out about ‘different agendas’ it is worth noting his own agenda has been open to question for the last two years, since his book Brave New World was published, amid interest from Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Those options vanished as he wondered aloud in the summer about whether it was right to seek a new challenge but they will reappear.
Real have made it known they are still interested and although Pochettino’s contract runs until 2023, they will note how the rampant progress at Spurs has stalled. No wins from three away games in seven days. Two from eight in all competitions this season. Five from 20 since April’s grand opening of the new stadium.
Not the sort of form to sustain their Champions League status and many questions emerge if that is stripped away. Not least: Where would that leave Harry Kane? He might adore Spurs but he is ambitious to win trophies.
Homeless and unable to sign players, they came together and defied the odds to reach the Champions League final. But without a natural process of regeneration, inertia is threatening to take hold. Pochettino must find a solution without delay and prove he still has Spurs under his spell.