Daniel Levy shocked the world today by showing Tim Sherwood the door. Tim Sherwood shocked the world as well by failing to announce to the press that the door lacked character and was trying to undermine his job all along.
But now it's time to look for a replacement for next season. In this series, the writers of Cartilage Free Captain take in-depth looks at various managers who might be candidates for the Spurs managerial position. In this edition, we explore the merits of Mauricio Pochettino.
Mauricio Pochettino, current Southampton and former Espanyol manager
Career Record: 53-38-70 (32.92%) at Espanyol, 23-18-19 (38.33%) at Southampton, 1 Premier League Manager of the Month (October 2013), 1 Argentina Primera title (as a player - before separated tournaments), 1 Argentina Clasura title (as a player), 2 Copa del Reys (as a player)
Accomplishments: At Espanyol, Pochettino took over a debt-ridden disaster of a club camped out in the relegation zone halfway through the 08-09 season. In the span of four months, he turned them from relegation fodder into a dynamic, young, and exciting midtable side. Three further midtable finishes followed, finishing as high as 8th in 2010-2011. He did a phenomenal job integrating young prospects into the first team, giving more than 20 academy players their first shot at senior football. But eventually, the €150 million debt saddling the club proved too much for MoPo to overcome. Financial struggles forced the club to sell off their best players every year with no reinvestment to replace them. Eventually it became too much, and he and the club parted ways.
He didn't have to wait long for a new job, as Southampton eagerly snapped up the promising young manager. In a season and a half, he took a side three points above the relegation zone to a comfortable 8th place finish. Before injuries took their toll midway through the season, Southampton flirted with the Champions League and Europa League places, and on balance of their play it's hard to say they didn't deserve to be there. Like at Espanyol, he proved adept at integrating young prospects into the senior team and building an exciting cohesive team.
Before he was a football manager: Pochettino had a twenty year professional career as a centerback, and was capped 20 times for Argentina. He made over 150 appearances at Newell's Old Boys in Argentina, winning two titles along the way, before appearing over 300 times for Espanyol where he racked up two Copa del Rey trophies. He also had stints in France at PSG and Bordeaux.
Would he come to Tottenham?: Probably. I suppose it's possible that Southampton could present a vision for the future that he likes and guarantee him that they won't sell Adam Lallana or any of their wonderkids, but that seems unlikely. Katharina Liebherr seems to be way less into this than her dad was. He'll probably take the next big job he's offered.
Tactical analysis: More than anything, Pochettino's sides are characterized by aggression. His teams press high up the pitch and ferociously hunt the ball in packs. If his players retrieve the ball deep in opponent territory, they look for quick vertical passes in order to find shooting opportunities before the opposition can get organized. If his side's pressing results in the ball being played long by the opposing team, Pochettino instructs his players to play the ball calmly from the back. Typically, a midfielder drops back to receive the ball, allowing the center backs to split wide and the fullbacks to push up the pitch, stretching opposing defenses.
Maybe his greatest strength as a manager is his ability to give his players freedom to express themselves while maintaining individual clarity, to borrow a term from Bobby Warshaw. In his words, "Individual clarity refers to a player's understand of his role at any given moment. It is the most important part of a tactical plan. If each player doesn't understand his role at every moment, the plan means nothing. It's just words thrown out in the locker room." Spurs' players have lacked that individual clarity this season, under Andre Villas-Boas and especially under Tim Sherwood. Pochettino's ability to impart that clarity on his players has made Southampton one of the most enjoyable teams to watch this year.
Pros: He's proven he can be successful on limited resources in the Premier League. He's done a lot with young English talent, which Daniel Levy probably loves. If there's anyone who can get the most out of Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Tom Carroll, it's Pochettino. He's a very calm and collected Marcelo Bielsa disciple, so he has that knowledge without being a psycho.
Cons: He's won nothing. Southampton kind of leveled off once it became obvious they weren't a top six team. He might just be a more stylish David Moyes; it's not clear that he can take a team like Spurs to the top four. He might be a one-trick pony, as teams that sit back with lots of men behind the ball and counter quickly seem to be able to get the better of Southampton.
Final thoughts: He's the favorite at the moment, and for good reason. Yes, his Espanyol spell was unimpressive, but he was dealing with an impossible situation there. He has a great pedigree, he's young, he plays good football and he has Premier League experience. Between his career as a player, the men he's studied under and what he's done at Southampton, he'll probably command respect right away. He might not be anyone's No. 1 choice, but he'd be a very good hire. If he's the man Levy wants, we should all get behind that decision.
Because of people's jobs and lives and such, this post was a collaborative effort between LE, Kevin McCauley and Brett Rainbow.