Man Management – Pochettino…

I believe, winning a game requires control of the space on the pitch and not just control of the ball. Especially control of space required when the team is in defensive positions. Football to me is not just about talented individuals and their skill sets; it is about coalitions, connections and correspondence between 11 different individuals. I’m not sure, if Daniel Levy(Spurs Club Chairman) and Franco Baldini(Spurs technical director) are in agreement to what fans believe. But Pochettino has proved his mettle with results coming at the right time. 2105/16 seaon, he has made Spurs qualify for champions league. This was possible with excellent man management and tactics. Like in Chess, in football, it’s all about tactics, moves and patience. This is the reason, why football is an intelligent game and not just a contact sport.

Last Season(2015/16), Pochettino achieved 70 points with 19 wins , 13 draws, and only 6 losses. Most importantly, Tottenham finished below Arsenal with just 1 point as a difference in the league table. This to me is an achievement because, what Wenger, with 2 decades of premier league experience does is achieved by Pochettino is just 2 season. Worth isn’t ?

In terms of track record, Wenger is miles ahead, not least due to his extensive experience and advantage in terms of age. Pochettino struggled in La Liga, but transformed a struggling Southampton side into a respectable mid-table outfit, and has similarly worked wonders at Tottenham.

Pochettino has come to white hart lane not just to emulate what he achieved at Southampton. He is here as a coach to create an ambitious form of football over a period of 5 years which yields sustainable results for the club. Tottenham has an identity and that should not be drastically altered. It has most number of English players who also represent for 3 lions.

Who is Pochettino?

Pochettino grew up in Santa Fe Province (Argentina), son of a farm labourer. He has not had a great childhood in terms of pampering of gifts, luxurious travel etc. He has come up the hard way in his life and achieved whatever success and fame on his own. Pochettino played competitive level of football at national level representing Argentina(Won 20 caps for Argentina) and also Managed Espanyol between January 2009 and November 2012,” Won 49 of 146 league matches at Espanyol. This is a very good record for a manager at 42 years of age.

Flushed with pride at being heralded as the best central defender in La Liga while at Espanyol, Pochettino was asked to assess his form by Bielsa.

Pochettino about his man management approach :

“In my head I was a nine or a 10, but I decided to be very humble and say maybe a seven or eight,” said Pochettino. “He said to me ‘you were s***’ and my face was like this (shocked). He said ‘because of this, this and this’ and showed me why, and said ‘if you perform like this then you cannot play for me and you cannot play for the national team’.

“It was tough for me. I drove to my house crying, but, after time, I recognized it was true. I was s***, yes I was s***. And then I improved, I played for Argentina in the World Cup and I got a big offer from Paris Saint-Germain to buy me. When I believed I was the star man, maybe from the news or the fans, this big offer never arrived.

I was a person that liked the reality, that the manager never lied to me. If I was s***, I was s***. But I needed to know sometimes. When you are young, you need to know the reality because when you are in your bubble, you believe that always all you do is right. And sometimes you need people who say ‘hey, come on, what happened with you?’.”

In my opinion, it is not logical to compare Pochettino with Harry Redknapp, AVB or Tim Sherwood, as each manager has different mindset, experiences and coaching philosophy. AVB set a new club record by finishing with 72 points during 2012/13, and it was also the highest points tally ever managed by any club in the Premier League to consequently not finish in the top four. But total number of points does not mean, 175 million investment is well utilized on the pitch.

Pochettino’s tactics :

Pochettino has a very clearly defined tactical style, influenced by Marcelo Biesla during his time in the Spanish League. This revolves around aggressive pressing high up the pitch, maintaining possession but also moving the ball forward quickly and vertically in transition to catch an opponent off guard. These strategies require highly trained players who can run at least 10-12 kilometres on an average during a game and specifically cover more in opponents half. Covering more distance, doesn’t mean contribution to the success of the team. The key point to run into open spaces attracting defenders and controlling that zone, thereby the team’s winger and forward get more open space to initiate key triggers

 

  • Pochettino believes in a 4-2-3-1 base with a high defensive line. He typically wants one of his midfielders to sit deeper than the other in order to protect the back line and to create multiple passing levels in the team’s shape.
  • He favors the use of aggressive pressing high up the field both to disrupt the opposition attack and to create chances for his team. Pochettino essentially agrees with Jurgen Klopp that the high press is the best playmaker in the game. That said, Pochettino’s approach to pressing is actually much more conservative than that of his former coach Marcelo Bielsa, Pep Guardiola, Roger Schmidt, or Klopp.
  • Pochettino wants his striker to work hard in the pressing game, particularly with closing quickly on the keeper when given the chance, and will also ask him to drift out wide on a regular basis to receive the ball. The attacking three behind the striker are given a large amount of freedom to move across the front three largely because the pressing system makes it difficult for them to be too rigid in their positioning on the field.

 

Relationship with players:

I foresee, young players(Like Tom Carrol, Ali, Dier) will respond greatly to his coaching philosophies, approach and training plan. Pressing being his favourite approach, he will accordingly develop training plans to prepare the youngsters for high pressing games. Unlike other premier league managers, I see Pochettino deploying situations based tactics and approach, rather than a templated approach for all opponents. One notable aspect of his stint at Espanyol was his ability to work with young players and integrate them into the first team. More than 20 academy graduates were introduced into senior football under him. Considering spurs poor track record in developing youth talent, that’s surely one of the qualities that attracted Levy to bring him at white hart lane to build up a reserve team. I hope to see Alex Pritchard will be eager to work with him.

Focus on defence:

From fans, media and general public, it is known that, Pochettino, prefers playing high energy, attacking game, but if you go down a few layers into his mind, he knows the ideology that attacking principles should be based on a sound defence and not otherwise. Spurs finished 6th position during 2013/14 season with overall 55% wins, 16% draws and 29% losses. Defensive errors made them to lose 1 in every 3 games played. Most of errors are from experienced defenders in the squad, which is even more worrying. However, the condition improved in 2015/16, where the losses were around 16%. A big improvement when compared to previous campaign under Pochettino. The last game with Newcastle was the biggest let down from Spurs. However it was understandable that Newcastle was playing for pride and Spurs were playing for points.

Conclusion:

It’s easy to look at Mauricio Pochettino and see in him a disciple of two of the most established managers in world football—Marcelo Bielsa and Pep Guardiola. Yet when you take the time to better understand his system, you find that though Pochettino owes many debts to many different managers, he is very much his own man and has developed his own system. His pressing is not a straight copy of either the German school or the more aggressive approach of his former coach Bielsa. His use of his strikers is innovative. And his indifference to possession sets him apart from both managers who demand high amounts of possession (Guardiola, Louis Van Gaal), and managers who actually want to avoid possession (Jose Mourinho, Diego Simeone). When you add his commitment to youth to this tactical picture, you get a manager who doesn’t have any real parallel in world football.

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