After another listless Tottenham Hotspur display against the team at the bottom of the table, this time a 1-1 draw against winless Watford at home on Saturday, Mauricio Pochettino was again put in the position of trying to explain what’s been going wrong with his team. Spurs are adrift right now, looking so far off the pace that even a home win against the 20th team in the league looks beyond them.
When previously asked about refreshing the squad and what the club may or may not do when the transfer window opens up again in January, Pochettino had been defiant, saying that he was happy with his players and that he didn’t need additional players. But after yesterday’s match, Pochettino seemed to change his tune... but only slightly.
Pochettino seemed to walk back the idea that Spurs don’t need help in the January window, but also said there’s really no point in speculating about it now, when there are still over two months until the window opens again, and a lot more matches to play with the squad he has.
“We are not going to get any benefit to talk about January, it is too far away, we have got a lot of games to play. That is the structure of the club that is working and thinking and they need to be ready if we need to do something, if not we keep going, but I am happy with the squad, I am happy with the players.
“Like always, what is going to happen in January I cannot guess today, what happens will happen. We need to take the responsibility. But if we win all of the games why will we need to do anything? But if we need something we need to act. But we need to act and stay calm.
“The most important thing now is to provide calm to the players, they need to recover for Tuesday [against Red Star] because it is going to be important to win and build again our confidence. It is going to be tough because the Champions League is always tough.
”It is not the moment to talk, when the time arrives we are going to take that decision in one way or another. But please, I am not contradictory in my speech or my press conference. Now is the time to stay all together, all of the squad, with the staff and the fans and try and change the atmosphere.”
Poch has a point, of course. There are 15 more matches in all competitions before the window even opens, and of course even more matches to come before any reinforcements could hypothetically come in, get acclimated and “Pochettino fit.” Like it or not, this is the squad Spurs have for the foreseeable future, and they’re going to have to figure out a way to win with it, even if they bring players in.
Pochettino doesn’t throw players under the bus. It’s one of the things that’s been a constant over the course of his Spurs tenure, and it has led to contradictory statements in press conferences (like the difference between his comments here and those from after the Brighton loss), and no shortage of frustration directed at him from supporters. But his philosophy has always been one of togetherness, at least when he is in front of the public or the press.
That sense of Poch-as-shield explains why he said that he didn’t need help in January, when it’s clear that he does — despite the open knowledge that there’s a corps of players within his squad that no longer respects him or his tactics and wants out of the club, he continues to try and shield those players from criticism, even when things are clearly not going well.
But the frustration is evident. Just today, football.london beat writer Alasdair Gold wrote a scathing opinion piece accusing Tottenham’s under-performing players — identified as Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, and Serge Aurier — of hiding behind Pochettino and calling for Poch to drop them for younger players who want the chance, even if it means a short-term drop in form. That this is coming from Gold, one of the most prominent Spurs beat writers and usually an even-keeled mouthpiece for the club, is even more startling.
And Gold isn’t wrong here either, though it would be uncharacteristic of Pochettino to air the club’s dirty laundry publicly. One suspects that the fan base would understand if he were to drop long-serving servants of the club even for youth products or players who normally wouldn’t be ready, if that was the point he wanted to make, and even if that resulted in an additional loss of form.
The defensive line in particular has players such as Davinson Sanchez, Juan Foyth, Ryan Sessegnon, Japhet Tanganga, and Kyle Walker-Peters that are waiting for their chance to play. They may not be better than the back line that started against Watford, but at this point is there any risk to giving them a chance?
The January window is a bit of a red herring. Yes, Tottenham can make some moves for incoming players when the window opens, but Pochettino is correct that speculation is useless at this point, and any incoming or outgoing players would not benefit the club until probably next season. If Tottenham are going to try and fix things in the short to medium term, those fixes will have to come from within.