Mauricio Pochettino is looking like the alchemist Daniel Levy's been trying to find for years. Illustration by Richard Swarbrick
While delirious Spurs fans celebrated the stunning contribution of Christian Eriksen on Wednesday night they might have spared a thought for the other hero of the hour. Not the typically excellent Harry Kane, who menaced the home defence all night, nor any of the rest of the team in yellow who had given everything for the cause, but the head coach Mauricio Pochettino.
In getting Spurs to the Capital One Cup final and keeping them in contention for the Europa League and a top four Premiership finish, Pochettino is having a remarkably good first season. To the more delusional Spurs fan this level of achievement might be considered par but given what he's had to contend with, it is much better than that.
He arrived in the summer to find a squad packed with big name players failing to justify their prodigious transfer fees, wages and reputations and no budget with which to transform it. He spent the first few months of the season looking for the right formula and by November he had found it, rehabilitating the previously sullen Jan Vertonghan and bestowing first choice status on the youthful Harry Kane, Nabil Bentelab and Ryan Mason.
From that point on any doubts about his resolve and coaching acumen were dispelled and the team responded by discovering reserves of spirit and determination that were previously hidden. The classy Vertonghen and Eriksen, in particular, suddenly looked like they were buying into a plan.
That's not to say that everything has now become easy. The squad still contains individuals of questionable motivation who, because of the constant stream of games, need to be utilised. And no amount of brilliant man management, tactical judgement or sheer hard work can bridge the gap in quality between his players and those of the better financed teams. But while the juggling act must go on, the question of whether Pochettino has what it takes to keep the balls in the air has been answered.
Spurs will go to Wembley on March 1st as underdogs but by no means no-hopers partly because of their spectacular victory over Chelsea on New Year's Day, the pinnacle of Pochettino's achievements so far. Memories of that glorious night and of the magnificent 2008 victory over the same opponents in the same final, who were no less fancied on the day, will sustain the Lillywhite faithful over the coming month.
As for the rest of the season, unless the club can offload a couple of big ticket items in the next week, it's looking like it will have to be negotiated without any notable new recruits as Daniel Levy looks to emerge from another transfer window in profit. Fortunately, in Pochettino, he seems to have stumbled on the alchemist he has been trying to find for years. The fans will have to pray that Vertonghen, Eriksen and Kane remain fit but if they do, come the season's end, Pochettino might have satisfied even the most highfalutin demands of Tottenham Hotspur.