EPL: Time waits for no man at Spurs

EPL: Time waits for no man at Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Tottenham Hotspur have always struggled with delusions of grandeur.

When chairman Daniel Levy discusses his grandiose plans for his club, he can sound like an independent film-maker talking up his chances of winning an Oscar.

Recent history does not vindicate Levy's inflated opinion of Tottenham. They produce the odd big boy in Gareth Bale, but they do not sit among them.

At times, Levy comes across as a despotic leader of a small dictatorship feverishly plotting global domination.

He refuses to temper his ambitions. He does not acknowledge size, stature or pedigree.

He dismisses the superior resources of rivals as a minor concern. He is driven only by an irrepressible desire to join the four leaders at the top table.

And he will fire Mauricio Pochettino if the Tottenham manager fails to finish in the top four this season.

Neither man will admit as much of course. At the moment, the pair are still blowing kisses at each other across press conferences.

Speaking publicly in English for the first time last week, Pochettino insisted that Levy had not made Champions League qualification one of the conditions of his employment.

Considering the fact that speaking in English was one of the conditions of Pochettino's employment - along with plenty of other targets - it's safe to assume that the Argentinian shared a little white lie in his second language.

Pochettino is the 10th manager in 13 years under Levy's chairmanship; an astonishing statistic that not only underlines the chairman's intolerance of failure but also undermines any pretence at patience.

Time waits for no manager at Tottenham.

Andre Villas-Boas left the building the moment fourth place appeared unobtainable and Harry Redknapp got the boot despite finishing fourth in 2012 (Chelsea's Champions League win denied Spurs a place in the competition that year).

So there is an obvious irony here.

Style

Pochettino has been hired for his impressive ability to impose an attractive, attacking style upon his squad. Tottenham want a template similar to the one fashioned at Southampton.

But he needs sufficient time and freedom to work his revolution, the very luxuries traditionally denied the average Spurs manager. Levy makes no secret of his meddling in money matters, seemingly revelling in the transfer window's maddening final hours every year.

And director of football Franco Baldini has somehow kept his job, despite spending more than £100 million ($210m) on new players only to leave Tottenham in a weaker position than before he started.

Pochettino is caught between an egotistical axeman and an incorrigible big-spender.

To make matters worse, his predecessor Tim Sherwood struggled to talk a good game, much less manage one.

What Levy, Baldini and Villas-Boas achieved in the transfer market, Sherwood inadvertently emulated in the dressing room. He left behind an unbalanced, unhappy and clearly disjointed squad.

Pochettino has inherited a bit of a mess.

Rather than exchange Elvis for The Beatles when Bale left, Spurs got lumbered with a couple of contenders, a few X-Factor rejects and the odd William Hung.

Tottenham became a bloated squad mired in mediocrity. Their results against the big clubs, the ones whom Levy dreams of surpassing, were awful. Sherwood's Spurs lost by four goals to Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.

At times, their defending was disastrous with Michael Dawson encapsulating the club's downfall. A committed, loyal servant, the skipper gave everything.

But his effort wasn't always reciprocated by the end result. Schoolboy errors defined his campaign and that of the back four generally. So Pochettino's signing of left back Ben Davies is a smart move, allowing the former Swansea man to replace the injury-prone Danny Rose and push Jan Vertonghen into his preferred centre-back role.

That's a quick fix in defence, but it's the minefield in midfield where Tottenham's new manager must tread slowly and carefully.

Spurs' erratic spending sprees leave Paulinho, Sandro, Etienne Capoue and Mousa Dembele essentially fighting to fill two positions - and none of them particularly passed the audition last season.

Youthful

Lewis Holtby has also put his hand up for selection and Nabil Bentaleb, at 19, is the kind of youthful, malleable midfielder that Pochettino likes to mould into a modern, intelligent footballer, as he did with Morgan Schneiderlin (who remains a Tottenham target).

That leaves the kings of wishful thinking - or the clowns of inconsistency, depending on their mood. Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend, Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado (if he stays) and Emmanuel Adebayor either captivate or cure insomnia. They are still looking for a middle ground.

Lamela is undoubtedly blessed with the ability to drift in from the right and link up with Christian Eriksen - Tottenham's only ray of light last season.

And if Pochettino can motivate Adebayor to display a semblance of consistency, then the Argentinian deserves the freedom of north London.

More likely, he will implore Levy to seek an alternative option in attack before the transfer window closes.

Pochettino's greatest battle will always be in the boardroom. More than money, he requires time to address the reckless spending of those who went before him.

Levy still insists that Spurs are a top-four club in all but Premier League placing.

Pochettino has the potential to prove him right. But the Tottenham chairman must remove the handcuffs and turn off the stopwatch.

npsports@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on August 12, 2014.
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