Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino reportedly spent much of Wednesday making his side re-watch the final 10 minutes of Tuesday’s Champions League debacle against Bayern Munich as he tried to pick up the pieces after the 7-2 loss at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The loss was embarrassing, but the way the team fully capitulated in the closing part of the match was unacceptably humiliating, and reports suggest that this was made abundantly clear by the Spurs boss.
However, despite the numerous suggestions of fractures in team unity and players who are frustrated with the way he is handling the tactics and personnel, Pochettino’s job is not under threat, according to a report in the Telegraph from Matt Law. In fact, so strongly does Levy and the board feel that Pochettino remains the man for the job that they do not feel it’s necessary to even make any sort of public statement in support.
Spurs do not feel the need to give Pochettino any vote of confidence or public backing, as they view the current situation far off reaching any sort of crisis point or need for intervention.
Levy is confident Tottenham can still qualify from Group B of the Champions League and that Pochettinco’s side remain more than capable of once again finishing inside the top four of the Premier League.
—Matt Law, Telegraph
That’s not to say there aren’t problems within this Tottenham squad. There clearly are, as the string of poor results indicate. However, Pochettino said after the Bayern match that he thought the opening half hour on Tuesday was the best his team had played all season. It’s not much to hang your hat on, but it’s something that can be built upon. There’s talent in this squad, if not harmony.
The players are also not blaming the manager for the Bayern result, at least not publicly. Toby Alderweireled, himself likely to leave the club this summer when his contract expires, put the onus on the squad performance, saying how embarrassing the result was for everyone involved.
“It is nothing to do with [squad commitment]. Nothing, nothing. I think sometimes it’s a shame that nobody can see the work ethic everybody brings to this club. Everybody’s hungry and wants to work hard.
“We know the results are not the best. We’re not against the press and, of course, things will be critical. After tonight things will be critical and that’s part of top sports, you know, the sport of football. Sometimes you’re up there and sometimes you’re in the corner where you get slapped. But you have to fight a way out of the corner. And that’s the moment we’re in now...
“I’m not going to lie, this is a big loss, we feel the pain, everyone in the dressing room was just quiet. Everyone feels the pain, so it’s not easy, but we have to work hard. And there are highs and lows, and now we are we’re down there you know. The only way up is to work.
“You can sit there and keep saying we are unlucky, but no, it’s all our responsibility and we work hard. But I think that’s not a problem to work hard. Everybody is doing the best they can to perform the best way possible. We just focus on the things we have to do and try to get out of this corner.”
What’s clear is that something needs to change. Spurs haven’t been helped by the fact that all three of their new signings currently at the club — Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, and Ryan Sessegnon — have been hobbled by injuries, meaning that any sort of squad refresh has been severely postponed. There are also reportedly a number of players who wanted out of the club in the summer but weren’t able to get a move before the close of the window — Victor Wanyama, Christian Eriksen, Danny Rose, and Serge Aurier are all in that mix.
A column in the Athletic ($) today addresses this obliquely, defending Pochettino’s past work and pointing to how Alex Ferguson used to shake up his squad every four years or so to keep things fresh. However, what that column doesn’t do is address any potential solutions — there’s no clear path forward for Spurs to do any sort of freshening up until January at the earliest, and even addition by subtraction would only leave Spurs more short-handed in depth unless Levy would commit to another major spend at the new year.
Even so, things aren’t working right now, and some sort of shake-up is desperately needed. Whether that comes from a change in tactics, a shift in personnel, an attitude adjustment, or all of the above remains to be seen. But with Pochettino now apparently having the backing of the Spurs brass, it’s up to all involved to find a way to work together, or this season will continue to devolve. That starts this weekend with a trip to Brighton.