Tottenham beginning to profit from Pochettino’s youth policy
Tottenham (6/1 for a top four Premier League finish) coach Mauricio Pochettino has at times suffered this season, enduring several teething problems as he slowly implements his system at Spurs.
However, before Daniel Levy finds he has an itchy trigger finger, he should cast an eye back over Pochettino’s career thus far.
Whilst results are still far from perfect at White Hart Lane, with a 5-1 thrashing of Europa League minnows Asteras Tripoli failing to cover some apparent cracks, there has been an evident step forward in providing the Londoners with a clear identity and philosophy.
One of the key ingredients in the Argentine coach’s approach so far has been a willingness to probe his various club’s resources for potential talent. Understandably so, as younger players are often more receptive to new ideas, but Pochettino has never been shy about throwing youth into the fray.
This trust has already been instrumental in turning the careers of several Tottenham stars around, but will not be a shock to supporters of Pochettino’s former clubs Southampton and Espanyol.
The former Argentina centre half took over the reins at Barcelona-based club Espanyol in 2009, after two stints as a player with the Parakeets. Faced with tightened purse strings, Pochettino famously guided his side from the relegation zone to a 10th-place La Liga finish in 2009.
Over his subsequent two-and-a half-terms at the Spanish side, Pochettino gained praise for giving debuts to over 20 young stars, with an emphasis on academy-reared talent such as Raul Baena, Javi Marquez and Victor Ruiz. Current Napoli wingman Jose Callejon also excelled under his tutelage, before being plucked away by boyhood club Real Madrid.
Financial and boardroom issues eventually led to his departure, but his willingness to work with limited tools and a high-pressing, attacking style, had already attracted attention, eventually earning him a move to Southampton.
Famed for their own prestigious production line, a partnership between the Saints and Pochettino appeared a perfect match.
In his time at the south coast club, the 42-year-old honed the talents of starlets such as England capped Calum Chambers, who challenged Nathaniel Clyne for a starting spot aged just 18, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse.
Seemingly not fancying another stint with a financially-challenged club, Pochettino departed St Mary’s prior to the summer fire-sale, with Spurs stealing in to poach the highly-rated coach.
Transfer policy and recruitment have already evidently evolved under his guidance, in stark contrast to spending splurges over the last few seasons.
Tottenham have so far been keen to introduce, and rely on, youth under their new boss’ instruction. Speaking recently, Pochettino stated: “The young players here are of a similar standard to Southampton’s, only we need to take time to give them the chance…they give the youngsters the possibility to play and that is the difference.”
“We have great talent in the academy. We need to give the vehicle for these young players to arrive in the first team.”
The implementation of these ideas are clearly already underway, with Pochettino relying heavily on younger members of the squad. Whilst not homegrown, the excellent Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela have been key to some of Spurs’ best performances this season, and the side are at their most threatening when these two are in full flow, freely interchanging.
Lamela initially struggled after his Gareth Bale sale funded, big-money move to the Premier League in 2013, but Pochettino looks to have given his compatriot the confidence needed to begin excelling in north London. His recent rabona-style goal is evidence of a young player with his belief back, and fans will be hoping he can finally recapture his previous prolific Roma form.
In addition, much faith has been placed in 20-year-old defender Eric Dier, with Pochettino allowing the England Under-21 star to plug gaps at both centre half and right back.
Spurs’ academy has not been ignored by their new boss, either, with Pochettino affording striker Harry Kane 10 appearances in all competitions. He has been rewarded with seven goals, including a first senior career hat-trick from the 21-year-old, and talk of a full international call-up for England.
Pochettino has also illustrated an eye for a dark horse, with Ryan Mason, already 23, having previously appeared to slip under Tottenham’s radar. After finally being given his Premier League debut, Mason has acquitted himself well, which is testament to his coach’s foresight.
If Spurs stick with Pochettino, his history suggests the Argentine will repay the faith, and potentially save the Londoners a pretty penny in the process.