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25 Apr 2018

Tottenham: Pochettino's achievements go far beyond silverware

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Silverware isn't everything

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His finest hour

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(Photo credit: Víctor Gutiérrez Navarro)

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou never kicked a football but if she did she would probably have supported the Netherlands. 

Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels barely won anything with the Oraanje but their influence continues to bleed through the sport. What they achieved is remembered far less frequently than how they made you feel.

If you subscribe to this viewpoint, then you probably agree with the assertion that Mauricio Pochettino is an elite manager. 

An insipid exit to Manchester United in the FA Cup last week means that he will go another season – his fourth in a row – without winning a trophy. To some, such a paucity of silverware is immaterial.

To others, though,  is a sign that he has reached his peak. The Argentine is nothing but a mawkish auditor who – having rooted out inefficiency and righted the books – should now be shunted out and replaced with a ‘proven winner'.

Silverware isn't everything

This viewpoint, however, denigrates the gravity of the 48-year-old’s achievements in North London. 

Before his arrival in 2014, the club were in danger of surrendering the momentum they had accrued under Harry Redknapp, with lamentable jobs from Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood sapping their hard-fought momentum.

The squad was jaded, peppered with disruptive influences like Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Emanuel Adebayor. Both were dispatched, victims of a transfer policy that Eric Dier described recently as eschewing 'dickheads'. 

In their stead, mouldable young talents were acquired; Dele Alli and Ben Davies in Pochettino’s first season, Kieran Trippier and Heung-Min Son 12 months later. 

All four were given time to inculculate themselves with their coaches' ethos; all four have since evolved into crucial parts of the first team.

His finest hour

Harry Kane, however, will always be Pochettino’s greatest triumph. Tim Sherwood might have given him his debut, but it was the Argentine who carved him into a lean and bristling genius. 

Similar transformations were enjoyed by Danny Rose, Mousa Dembélé and Toby Alderweireld. Not only did Pochettino overhaul the club’s transfer policy, but he also made his existing squad infinitely better too.

Tottenham fans take particular delight in the abolition of St. Totteringham’s Day. For the second year in succession, their club will finish well above a lacklustre Arsenal side. 

But this achievement is just a ribbon on a trajectory that has seen their side improve consistently. Their league finishes offer the plainest evidence of this; for the first three years of Pochettino’s tenure, they have placed fifth, third and second.

The improvement has been marked in the Champions League, too. After stuttering in the competition last year, Spurs overran both Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. 

They really should have beaten Juventus in the Round of 16, outperforming the Italians in both legs before surrendering to chance.

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Considering this evidence, Pochettino’s disappointment after the Manchester United game was perfectly understandable.

“We are close, we are close, we are close” he lamented to reporters.

“Nearly close enough to touch”.

Supporters who lament their side' failures this year are missing the point. It is because of one man only that they are even within grasping distance of a trophy. 

Instead of criticising Pochettino for what he hasn’t given them, they should bask in the wealth of things he has. He mightn’t have achieved a trophy yet, but pause for a moment and consider how he has made Tottenham feel.

What do you think of Pochettino's tenure? Should he leave the club in the summer?