THE BLOG

Make-or-Break Month Ahead for Pochettino and Spurs

06/02/2015 16:55 GMT | Updated 08/04/2015 10:59 BST

The run from February into March is never exactly a time to relax for any club and Spurs' campaign sits on a knife-edge as they prepare to face Arsenal, Liverpool and Fiorentina in quick succession. It'd be easy for Mauricio Pochettino and co to be a little nervous.

First up, there's the North London derby and the Liverpool game within four days of each other. Stripped of context, that's two tricky games and a bit of a pain on the fixture list. In reality, though, it means so much more than that.

This is the time when Pochettino and his team need to show that something has changed since he's taken over and that they aren't still the same garbage heap of wasted talent who ease past smaller teams, but get absolutely blown out of the water by the sides that they wish were their peers.

In terms of results, Spurs haven't progressed over the last year. They're actually three points behind where they were at this stage last year, but their improved performances have kept fans relatively happy so far. There's a time when 'rebuilding' stops working as an excuse though and this - after Pochettino's second transfer window - is it.

First then, the North London derby - the result of which has been a pretty accurate indicator of Spurs' general state over the last couple of decades. There were the bad old days between '99 and '08 when they went 21 fixtures without winning while they languished in mid-table, occasionally popping their heads into the top half.

A general resurgence followed at White Hart Lane, which saw a better run of derby form, coinciding with a string of 4th and 5th-placed finishes in the league.

Spurs fell into turmoil again for the last 18 months and it's no surprise that the last three derbies have gone the way of the team in red. A win in the derby is a huge statement of intent and its importance will not be lost on Pochettino in the run-up to the weekend's fixture.

Liverpool are next up and if the match holds less significance than Arsenal for the players, it may hold more for Pochettino. A hammering at home to the Reds was his first humiliation in charge and the rematch will be a chance to show just how much his team have progressed under his leadership since that game at the end of August. It was a demolition at the hands of Liverpool that did for Andre Villas-Boas just over a year ago and another heavy defeat could start to raise questions over Pochettino's position. Shouldn't, but could. Football fans are fickle, Daniel Levy doubly so.

A weekend of FA Cup action will serve as a much-needed break for Spurs, with nine days until the next game - Fiorentina at home. The Europa League is clearly not a top priority this season, but with a Champions League place at stake for the winner of the competition, it'll be telling to see how the tie is approached.

With a tricky league game at home to West Ham sandwiched between the two legs and the League Cup final coming straight after, Pochettino will have a big decision to make when it comes to how much he trusts in the fitness of his first-teamers and how much he believes in the quality of his backups.

The League Cup final against Chelsea rounds the month off with arguably the highest stakes of any game that's preceded it (it's not technically in February, but it's exactly a month away at time of writing - so it counts), as it gives Spurs the chance to win their first trophy since 2008 - when they also beat Chelsea in the League Cup.

The silverware would be a big plus for the team - a trophy in a new manager's first season is always something to be celebrated - but just as important would be proving that the New Year's Day Miracle (the 5-3 win over the Blues) was no fluke. Spurs fans have seen a lot of false dawns over the years and they'll be desperate for a sign that the successes they've glimpsed so far can continue.

It's always a rollercoaster ride at White Hart Lane and it'll be compelling to see where this one leads.

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