Tottenham Hotspur's defeat against Monaco on Wednesday night was disheartening. The stage of the evening was grand, and glory was there for the taking, but Mauricio Pochettino's side capitulated early and never really recovered. In a recent interview, he blamed himself for the loss yet, undoubtedly, his players received a fair share of criticism from their manager behind closed doors.
It is no secret that Pochettino holds demandingly high standards for his players. It is also true that he is quite candid and open in communicating his views to those who play for him. Marcelo Bielsa is probably Pochetinno's greatest footballing influence and the frank of nature of Argentina's former manager shaped both his career and his perspectives on challenging players. This is what Poche had to say about the necessity of honest feedback in football:
"I was a person that liked the reality, that they never lied to me. If I was s---, I was s---. But I needed to know sometimes. When you are young, you need to know the reality. When you are in your bubble, you believe that all you do is right. And sometimes you need people who say, 'hey, come on, what happened with you?'
"I always remember Marcelo Bielsa when he arrived at Espanyol, in preseason. I was [rated as Spanish newspaper] Mundo Deportivo's best centre-back in La Liga. He arrived and said to me, 'how do you judge, analyse, assess your last season?' I thought 'the manager asked me about my season and Mundo Deportivo says I am the best centre-back...'
"So, OK, from zero to 10, [my season was] maybe seven, eight? I was very humble. In my head it was 9 or 10! 'You were s---,' he said to me. And my face was like this," continued Pochettino, feigning shock.
"He said, 'because of this, this, this and this.' He showed me why. And he said, 'if you perform like this last season, then you cannot play for me and you cannot play in the national team.' It was tough for me. I drove to my house crying but, do you know, after the time, I recognised it was true.
Poche is rightfully touted as a manager who provides opportunity for young players, yet the meritocracy that he promotes goes both ways. If he is willing to hand a Premier League start to a nineteen-year-old, he is just as willing to ruthlessly rip into him if needed. In some ways, everyone overestimates their own capability — there is even an obscure theory about this called the Lake Wobegon effect. Yet for a young player, false security can be devastating to a career. Footballers need to push themselves and without cutting criticism, complacency and arrogance can spread like an infectious disease.
"I was s---, I was s---! Yes! And then I played the  World Cup, when I made the penalty [against England's Michael Owen] that wasn't a penalty, got a big offer from Paris Saint-Germain to buy me and changed my life. When I believed I was the star man, maybe from the news or the people, this big offer never arrived for me.
"But when I changed in my mind and my lifestyle and realised this is the reality, the national team, Paris Saint-Germain and different teams wanted me. This is an example that sometimes, although they are young, we are here to be tough but to be right -- not to be tough to be horrible and aggressive. We try to give good advice. That is the most important thing."
Poche learned humility from Bielsa's tirades, but it also grounded him and allowed him to understand himself and his capabilities better. He was a better footballer for it, but also gained an important perspective from it too. If Spurs are going to continue their renaissance under Pochettino, young players will continually learn his system through trials by fire. Who better to steer them in the right direction, however blunt that feedback might be, than the man who gave them their first professional breakthrough at a big club? Poche is staunch in his philosophy, yet that philosophy was forged through personal experience and the ample mistakes that come with it. For as cutting of a manager Poche can be, nobody can ever question the firm roots of reality that he injects into each and everyone of his players.