Tottenham’s brave new world is in danger of caving in: Nomadic existence turns fans off, key players are injured after the World Cup and their football is increasingly functional
- Mauricio Pochettino’s brave new world at Tottenham is in danger of caving in
- The sense of fatigue among fans was evident in the attendance on Monday night
- There is a sense Tottenham are happy to just get by rather than truly thrive
- As Pochettino forewarned, his players’ World Cup exertions are catching up too
- He is an extraordinary PR man for Daniel Levy, reassuring fans amid tough times
- With Real Madrid and Manchester United circling, Pochettino is in high demand
When Mauricio Pochettino published a memoir entitled Brave New World, Spurs seemed only at the start of something special. Here was their bold, bright manager revealing the intricacies and secrets of his management.
He was backed up by a shrewd sense in the transfer market, empowered by a young and talented set of players demolishing Real Madrid and stirred by the excitement of a new stadium.
When Pochettino then called on the club to ‘take risks’ and subsequently signed a new long-term contract, Spurs appeared ready to take a significant leap.
The brave new world Mauricio Pochettino once spoke of is crumbling around Tottenham
Yet fast-forward six months and the project has, worryingly, started to flatline. The sense of fatigue is summed up by one glaring fact. When Tottenham hosted Manchester City at Wembley in April, a crowd of 80,811 filled Wembley. On Monday evening, only 56,854 turned up for the same fixture. There are mitigating factors. It was televised and the date changed due to Sunday’s NFL game.
With fans growing increasingly lethargic over the use of Wembley it is not only the stadium causing angst. There is a sense Spurs are happy to just get by, to survive in the top four rather than truly thrive. In the cups, Pochettino has rarely shared the fans’ craving for silverware and he will make wholesale changes for Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup visit to West Ham.
As Pochettino forewarned, World Cup exertions are catching up. Injuries are affecting Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen. Others, like Hugo Lloris, Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane, appear to be running on fumes. The football is increasingly functional.
Under-resourced to claim the grandest prizes and over-stretched to win the smaller ones, Pochettino’s excellence may not be able to disguise the sense that the brave new world has hit a glass ceiling.
The sense of fatigue among Spurs fans was summed up by the poor attendance on Monday
There is a sense Tottenham are happy to just get by, to survive in the top four rather than thrive
Pochettino’s excellence may not be able to cloud the sense Tottenham have hit a glass ceiling
Tottenham are a riddle of contradictions. They represent, simultaneously, both a remarkable venture and a missed opportunity. Tottenham have a net spend of £29million since Pochettino joined in 2014. Manchester City (£518m), Manchester United (£466m), Arsenal (£225m), Chelsea (£200m) and Liverpool (£183m) have all exceeded Spurs’ spend by at least £150m. Despite this, Tottenham are only five points behind City and this is their third consecutive Champions League campaign.
By this measure, it feels preposterous to criticise. Yet with every passing month, the ambitions feel less clear-cut. This Tottenham project feels like a game of Jenga and if one piece falls away, it might all come crumbling down.
Pochettino is the indispensable figure, the sticking plaster that holds it all together. He is an extraordinary PR man for chairman Daniel Levy, reassuring supporters amid stadium delays and the absence of summer investment, which he himself backed.
He retains the fierce loyalty of key voices in his dressing room. Earlier this year, captain Lloris stated his future is ‘tied’ to Pochettino. Kane, Alli, Erik Lamela and Son Heung-min have all signed deals recently and Eriksen is likely to follow. This is the finest generation of talent for decades and by accident or design, the club has settled. To stand still in the Premier League is to go backwards.
Pochettino is an extraordinary PR man for Daniel Levy, reassuring supporters amid the issues
Dele Alli became the latest Spurs star to tie his future to Pochettino and the club on Tuesday
Tottenham will not play their first game at their new stadium until after the turn of the year
In his book, Pochettino used the animal kingdom to articulate his world view. ‘Dogs and wolves are the same, except for one difference,’ he began. ‘Dogs live at home, food and water are provided and they sleep in their owner’s bed. Wolves, meanwhile, live on mountains, have to find their own food and somewhere to kip… I want a team full of hungry and ambitious wolves.’ Instead, he may be left with sleeping lions.
Maybe Tottenham assume they will move into their new stadium and everything falls into place. They need only look across London to Arsenal and West Ham to realise this is delusional.
Tottenham insist their transfer spending will not be overly affected by spiralling stadium costs but a statement last week revealed the club’s net debt stands at £366m and will rise to £600m.
As Real Madrid look once more for a new manager, Pochettino’s eye must wander. He was made aware of interest midway through last season but resisted. At Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson considers the Argentine the natural successor to Jose Mourinho.
In happy moments, Pochettino’s book must feel like a bible for Spurs fans but in gloomier times, it reads as an open CV to prospective employers. And then the brave new world really would fall in.
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