Mauricio Pochettino's appointment at Spurs earlier this week felt, at first at least, rather more inevitable than inspiring. After names like Louis van Gaal and Frank de Boer had been banded about and fans started to dream of a new manager with the status to match that which they feel their club boasts, the man who represented a rather more realistic option and has thus been the bookies' favourite for months, was installed by Daniel Levy on Tuesday. Without as much of a reputation to precede him, Pochettinno might even be afforded (slightly) more time than a Van Gaal or Rafa Benitez might, but his past achievements still give reason for optimism at White Hart Lane.
He took Southampton to an eighth-placed finish this season and in turn established them as a mid-table to upper half Premier League team rather than the relegation battlers their budget should have them positioned. Recent research suggests Saints boast the third smallest wage bill of the 20 teams in the top flight this season, making Pochettino's feats all the more remarkable.
But what exactly will he bring to Tottenham? Much has been made of the intense, high-pressing game he had his Southampton team playing and the effect it had on other team's performances, in particular the disruption it brought to those that tried to play out from the back. Pass completion rates were invariably reduced when facing Saints and very few teams managed to dominate possession against them. Their 58.6% average share of possession was the highest in the Premier League this season and only fewer than 6 teams across Europe's top 5 leagues.
Fittingly given how often the ball was turned over in their matches, however, is the fact that Saints boasted the 9th best pass success rate in the Premier League (81.4%) and the 25th best in Europe. They won possession in the attacking third of the pitch the 8th most times of the 98 teams in Europe's top 5 leagues (146) and the 2nd most in the middle third (1030). That is, Southampton were so good at winning the ball back that teams simply couldn't retain possession in their usual way against them. Spurs, ranking 27th in Europe in terms of winning the ball back in the attacking third and 16th for the middle third, have the foundations in place to adopt Pochettino's doctrine.
Given the technical ability, youthful vigour and sheer athleticism in Tottenham's squad at present, there is reason to believe their players will be as capable of executing Pochettino's philosophy as effectively as Southampton did. One might take a look Emmanuel Adebayor's perceived lackadaisical attitude to defending and presume the striker would resent the workload that came with a high press, but that is far from the truth. In fact, only two strikers - in Marouane Chamakh and Johan Elmander, both of whom carry a far inferior goal threat - averaged more tackles per game in the Premier League last season than Adebayor (1.1).
Meanwhile, questions remain as to whether Roberto Soldado is up for the challenge of regaining a starting berth in north London or if he will cut his losses and return to Spain. He is an unbelievably gifted technician who scored 24 goals in his final season in La Liga and given that Spurs would probably not be able to recoup much of the £26m they paid for his services last summer, one of Pochettino's biggest challenges will be to get the most of the Spaniard, though much will depend on whether he is keen to buy into his new manager's approach.
Pochettino spent plenty of money in his first full transfer window at Southampton, and will likely be given funds to strengthen where he sees fit at Tottenham. Talk of an impending bid for Adam Lallana make sense - the midfielder played out what was asked of him more effectively than anyone else at St Mary's - but with Spurs boasting great strength and also youth that has the potential to improve vastly in attacking midfield areas, he should be far from the top of his priorities, with the defence arguably in greater need of improvement.
Lewis Holtby has a fantastic work ethic and has it in him to play a similar role for Spurs that Lallana did on the south coast, Aaron Lennon does an incredible amount of defensive covering but may need to improve his goal and assist return to justify a starting berth for much longer, and Andros Townsend could play an inside-right position similar to that which Jay Rodriguez plays for Saints. The main hope for Spurs fans is, however, that Pochettino will be able to get the best of his compatriot Erik Lamela.
The 22-year-old had an underwhelming debut season at Spurs but retains unquestionable quality that Pochettino will be charged with tapping into. Averaging a tackle every 29.6 minutes, he is happy to work off the ball, while statistically calculated strengths including through balls, dribbling, key passes and long shots serve to highlight the goal threat he carries, even if we did not see much of it this term. With time on his side, he should be granted at least another season to grow into the Premier League.
Patience is a virtue that has been altogether lacking from Daniel Levy's tenure as Spurs chairman, and he now needs to afford his new manager the necessary time to implement his plan amongst new players and in new surroundings. Levy has, by appointing Pochettino as well as André Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood previously, been searching for the next best young manager, and after the recent success enjoyed by Roberto Martínez at Everton and Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, it is easy to see why he opted for the Argentine. However, Pochettino only marginally outperformed his predecessor Nigel Adkins at Southampton in his first season, Everton eventually fell short of fifth this season and Rodgers' first season at Anfield ended in a 7th place finish. All of them have been or were given time to make their mark and improve the team.
Immediate impact is something Levy demands and is won over by. Sherwood oversaw an impressive 3-2 win over Pochettino at Southampton and was swiftly given the job on a permanent basis, but few would agree now that it was the right decision. Pochettino should be shown patience and given time to get results at Spurs, but he does indeed have the quality as a manager to hit the ground running, and if Levy's past is anything to go by, he might just have to.
How do you think Pochettino will get on at Spurs? Let us know in the comments below.
All statistics courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com where you can find yet more stats and player ratings.
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