Tottenham have reached advanced stages in talks with Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino to become their next manager, with reports that his appointment could be made official within the next 48 hours.
But is he the right man to deliver Spurs’ ultimate ambition of Champions League football, or is he yet another Daniel Levy appointment that will inevitably fail to live up to expectations?
No doubt, the Argentine has had a significant impact on the Premier League since his controversial appointment at St. Mary’s back in January 2013. Under his leadership, the Saints have been transformed from relegation battlers into Europa League contenders, all the while championing a high-octane, modern brand of football that would certainly impress the punters at White Hart Lane.
Yet, in my opinion, the ultimate test of the next Tottenham boss will be staying power; Daniel Levy has burned through eight permanent managers since becoming Lilywhites chairman thirteen years ago, including two this season alone. Many of his appointments and sackings have blurred the line between cut-throat and knee-jerk, and although Pochettino’s track record with Southampton is impressive, it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to prevent Levy getting cold feet as soon as results take a downward turn.
After all, although the Argentine will be charged with the task of administering Tottenham’s qualification into the Champions League, the chances of it happening next season remain relatively slim. Manchester City and Chelsea are all-but guaranteed top four finishes next season, Liverpool are a club only moving forward, Arsenal will spend lavishly this summer in the wake of their record-breaking sponsorship deal with Puma and Manchester United will be determined to make up for lost time as they welcome trophy-laden Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal.
It’s no secret that Tottenham‘s strongest finishes in the Premier League era have come under Levy’s two longest-serving managers, Martin Jol and Harry Redknapp. But with £110million’s worth of investment from summer 2013 still on the line, if Pochettino can’t provide instant success at White Hart Lane, it won’t be long before his new employer is hit by yet another case of second thoughts.
Mainly because, although Pochettino’s role in Southampton’s sudden rise should not be overlooked – their 56 points this season is the Saints’ highest ever in the Premier League, and the 42 year-old boasts the third-best win percentage, 38.4%, of any St. Mary’s boss in the modern incarnation of the top flight – it’s not as if it’s been a particularly challenging tenure.
Nigel Adkins had already laid down the foundations for success and Southampton are one of the best-run clubs in the country. He’s brought out the best in the Premier League’s healthiest and youngest home-grown contingent, but who is to say another manager wouldn’t have with paralleled ease under the same, rather fortunate circumstances?
Then again, as the Telegraph speculates, perhaps that is the crux of the attraction from Levy’s point of view. Tottenham’s squad is bursting with youthful players struggling to hit their full potential, ranging from Kyle Walker to Erik Lamela, and much like the Saints, who are expected to lose several key players this summer after a season of unprecedented success, the Lane outfit are still a selling club at this moment in time.
Pochettino has shown a knack for adding significant value to youthful acquisitions over a short period without getting too involved in the business side of things – a perfect fit for Levy’s transfer model.
But will that in combination with Pochettino’s leadership bring the Lilywhites any closer to Champions League football? As a manager whose biggest job to date remains his 18 month stay on the south coast, I certainly have my doubts. David Moyes earned a decade’s worth of plaudits at Everton, but couldn’t last a full season at Manchester United. Likewise, Pochettino is yet to claim silverware as a coach and thus far has absolutely no experience in Europe.
Whilst Rafa Benitez and Frank de Boer – the other leading candidates for the Spurs gig – are well aware of continental football’s requisites and in the former’s case, that of the Premier League’s top four, the Argentine will be working on educated guess-work.
Pochettino is clearly an intelligent man. Any manager who acts like he doesn’t understand a hint of English in public whilst getting the best out of an almost completely home-grown squad can rightly be considered a bright spark.
But more coveted and proven managers have failed to survive Daniel Levy’s impatience before – my prevailing concern is that, should Pochettino not get off to a flying start at White Hart Lane, the chairman will quickly wonder whether he’s wrongly bought into a managerial fad.
Securing Champions League football at Tottenham will be the biggest challenge of the Argentine’s coaching career, but in my opinion, it remains unlikely that Levy will allow him the time and tolerance to achieve it.