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Pochettino calls Christian Eriksen Tottenham’s “brain” in Spanish-language interivew

A rare interview in Pochettino’s native language gives a clearer glimpse into his coaching philosophy and views on his players.

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Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Mauricio Pochettino is an extremely sharp guy, but the reality is that despite managing in England for nearly five years, English is still very much his second language. Poch gave press conferences and interviews almost exclusively in Spanish while at Southampton, and while he has switched to English since coming to Tottenham Hotspur, it’s tough to really get your point across when you’re speaking a language where you aren’t fluent. It’s why Poch’s press conferences mostly all sound the same: it’s a combination of a guy being careful with the press and also trying to talk about things in a language in which he’s not totally comfortable.

Therefore, when we get interviews with Pochettino in Spanish, it really helps to drive home what a brain this guy has. Pochettino gave an interview recently with Spanish publication EFE where he talks about his coaching philosophy, his relationship with his top lieutenants Toni Jiminez and Jesus Perez, and his players. The original interview is both in Spanish and behind a paywall, but excellent translations of key parts of the interview are provided by Dan Kilpatrick at ESPN and Andrew Gaffney at Yahoo Sports.

On Dele Alli:

"[Dele] is a player with a lot of aggression in attack, ruthless and determined when he goes forward, which makes him extra dangerous. He understands the play very well and is a master at attacking spaces, he's mentally strong and has confidence in himself. He is the most important player to emerge in English football in recent years.”

There’s no question that Spurs’ £5m purchase of Dele Alli from MK Dons was a huge bargain. Poch has recently said that Alli is a £50m player (which sells him a bit short, in our opinion), and he’s been a key cog in Spurs’ offense since he cracked the first team last season. Equally important, though, has been Pochettino’s mentoring of Dele as he’s progressed: Pochettino has been there to help develop him into an improved player and also keep him grounded when his petulant streak rears its head every now and then. This season, Dele has been less likely to lose his cool than last season, and that’s no doubt a combination of his maturity and Pochettino’s guidance.

On Christian Eriksen:

He’s a player who has this great ability to make the team tick and also make his teammates look better. He is, without doubt, someone very special, a footballer who interprets, without needing to be told, what his teammates can do. He’s the brain, the player who helps everyone else understand the game better.

This is stating the obvious, clearly, but calling Eriksen the “brain” of the team is an apt description. He’s not the same kind of player as Luka Modric, but they both filled that same sort of role with regards to intelligent play, vision, and technical ability to pull the necessary strings to maximize the effectiveness of the tactical system.

On Pau Lopez:

We were very clear with him when we proposed the move to bring Pau here. He’s a player for the present and the future. Right now we have two very good goalkeepers in Hugo [Lloris] and Michel [Vorm], but he can be very important in the future. The chance to come to Tottenham and learn English football first hand can help him to grow.

This is helpful. When Spurs acquired the loan to bring Lopez to Tottenham, most observers (including us) surmised that this meant the end of Michel Vorm’s career at Spurs. But Pau has yet to take the field for the first team and has been featured mostly in the development squad, while Vorm just signed a new contract with Spurs. Poch clearly thinks highly of Lopez, but sees him as a future project. Hugo Lloris, despite his own new deal, won’t be at Spurs forever, and Vorm is getting to the age where he’s unlikely to be the long-term future at goalkeeper. Pochettino’s comments suggest that the keys to the kingdom may eventually be handed over to Pau (assuming his loan becomes a permanent transfer), but Lopez knows that he needs to bide his time and learn the English game.

On Tottenham’s fullbacks and Danny Rose being called “the new Marcelo”:

If you told [Rose] that he’d be very happy, Marcelo’s a player he likes a lot. We have an idea, a philosophy, in which we like to use full-backs who can get forward, who use the lanes. They’re important in that area of the pitch and the position is special. We’ve got footballers like [Kyle] Walker and Rose who give us what we’re looking for. We also have Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier, young players who help make the starters improve, who are ready and bring the competition that’s needed.

We’ve talked about this before on the site, but one of the most impressive accomplishments of Pochettino’s tenure at Spurs thus far has been how he has transformed Spurs’ fullbacks and turned them into perhaps the best in the Premier League. Danny Rose in particular has transformed from a mistake-prone, mercurial player to a nailed-on starter for England. Pochettino has also helped nurture Kyle Walker and develop him from a touchline-hugging track star of a fullback to an all-around player that’s equally comfortable on the defensive end. As far as I’m concerned, the jury’s still out on Davies and Trippier, but both of them have had excellent moments as rotation options. After what he’s done with Rose and Walker, who would doubt Pochettino’s player development?

There are lots more goodies available in the EFE interview and I’d encourage you to click on the ESPN and Yahoo articles for further reading.