Their 2-1 home victory over Everton on Sunday was inspired by the blend of passion, tenacity, organisation and elegance that became synonymous with the Argentine at Southampton. The second goal particularly; a full-blooded tackle from Harry Kane deep in Everton’s half was quickly turned into the deciding strike, with Aaron Lennon providing and the misfortunate Roberto Soldado netting his first Premier League goal of the campaign.
Yet, there’s still a long way to go before Tottenham become the bona fide ‘Pochettenham’ that the manager, the fans, the players and the boardroom dream of. Clearly his ideas are beginning to transition into positive results – even the infamously slender, elusive and inconsistent Christian Eriksen appears to be buying into the more industrious side of things – but the weakness of Spurs’ starting line-up against Everton said it all.
There’s nothing wrong with giving first team opportunities to young players – in fact, quite the opposite – but if Pochettino felt he had a genuine choice in the matter, it’s unlikely a midfield partnership of Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb, boasting just 26 Premier League appearances between them, would have been selected against the Toffees at the weekend. The same can be said for fan favourite Harry Kane – a promising prospect by all means, but one still way off the standard you’d expect to be starting regularly at a top six Premier League club.
Of course, whilst they provide passion, grit and local connection, growing in confidence and stature as the supporting volume around White Hart Lane swirled louder and louder, those left out of the starting line-up to face Everton are worryingly less responsive to both Pochettino and the fans.
Mousa Dembele, Etienne Capoue, Emmanuel Adebayor, Erik Lamela and Paulinho, who cost the club around £61million in transfers and an unimaginable amount in wages, were the notable exclusions as Spurs produced their first genuine Pochettino performance of the season – although the latter South Americans were both brought in the last half an hour.
Clearly, if this manner of performance is to become Tottenham’s defining philosophy long-term, Pochettino needs Daniel Levy’s backing in the transfer market.
This did NOT happen by any stretch of the imagination during the summer. £32million spent – just £8million net – is an incredibly modest budget for an incoming manager, especially considering £3million was devoted to a signing that won’t actually be at Pochettino’s disposal until January at the earliest, DeAndre Yedlin, and another £4million went on a back-up goalkeeper.
It speaks volumes about control of transfer policy at White Hart Lane that injury-free £4.7million signing Benjamin Stambouli, signed on deadline day as an alternative to Morgan Schneiderlin, hasn’t featured in the Premier League since his September debut.
So if Pochettino can make a Pochettino side out of players he inherited, signings he had little part in and youngsters – one of which, Mason, didn’t see the light of day under the last three manages at White Hart Lane – imagine what Spurs could be capable of with a squad tailored by him personally. The areas that require immediate addressing in January are already obvious; the strike force, the heart of midfield, the left wing.
And it’s not only on the incoming front where Pochettino needs full backing from the board. If his ideas are to truly take effect and not become lost in the more apathetic areas of the squad, the Tottenham manager must be given complete say on who is moved on too. Some faces, like Dembele, unfortunately just don’t fit, whilst others, like Adebayor, just aren’t fit for purpose.
Perhaps you could make this argument for any club with a new manager, but for Tottenham it has particular resonance; their transfer model of buying European prospects for future profits, purchasing players seemingly for financial reasons alone, is the corrosive disease that engulfed Andre Villas-Boas’ regime and up until last weekend, appeared to be eating away at Pochettino’s too.
However, there are signs already that Levy will support Pochettino when the January window arrives, albeit with some compromise. Last week, Spurs secured the services of former Southampton Head of Recruitment Paul Mitchell – someone who not only fits into the Lane’s current management structure, but also boasts a proven track record of working with Pochettino.
That’s certainly a step in the right direction, so now the ultimate question is finance. Tottenham have generated a net spend of negative-£13million since summer 2010 and clearly, fingers were singed by the fire that was Spurs’ £110million spree after Gareth Bale’s departure to Real Madrid. But if he wants Pochettino to be a long-term success in north London, Levy must think big – and that needs to be reflected in the Lilywhites’ transfer budgets over the next two windows.