Mauricio Pochettino is currently enduring the worst period of his Tottenham managerial career, with the team languishing in the bottom half of the table. They are currently only six points above the relegation zone. Although they are regulars in the Champions League, Spurs are now 11 points behind Manchester City in 4th position, with their chances of qualification looking slim at best. In the modern game, it is easy to suggest a managerial change will fix matters on the pitch and it will certainly be under consideration in the boardroom over this international break.
Last May, it would have been inconceivable for Tottenham to consider sacking Pochettino following a miraculous run to the Champions League final. Some would argue the London team were unlucky to lose the game, due to a controversial penalty award. However, the success in Europe provided a positive glean to what was a disappointing second half to last season.
In 2019, Tottenham have taken only 40 points from a total of 30 Premier League matches, including 12 defeats. It is standard mid-table form, with Newcastle United and Crystal Palace managing to accumulate more points during this period. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been widely criticised for the average form displayed by Manchester United, with many believing it to be a symptom of his management. Despite this, his team have picked up seven more points over this time period, ranking them as the 6th best team in the country.
This is Pochettino’s sixth season in charge of Tottenham and a change could now be the best for all parties. There is no doubting that the Argentine has done an excellent job in North London with the club growing exponentially during his tenure. The high expectations are now a large reason for the criticism he is facing within the media and on the terraces.
The recent opening at Bayern Munich provides fresh speculation, as there is no doubting that Pochettino would be a contender if interested. If Tottenham did decide to end ties with the Argentine, it wouldn’t be due to any doubts about his ability. There are none, as he has emerged as one of the best coaches in Europe. However, the modern game doesn’t allow managers to build a dynasty like the ones we have seen Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger oversee in the past.
Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have both spoken about it being difficult to stay at a club for longer than a period of four or five years. There are doubts about both individuals signing a new contract with their current clubs, despite overwhelming success. The staleness of the latter’s final season at Borussia Dortmund highlights that even the best succumb to overstaying their welcome eventually. Neither Klopp, not the hierarchy, wanted it to end, but it was decided that it was time to move on.
There was a period of struggle for Dortmund to begin with, but they are now starting to emerge as a European heavyweight again. This should provide evidence to the Tottenham board that there can be a future without the best manager the club have had in recent history.
It is now the end of a cycle, with a number of key players set to leave at the end of the season. Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose are all likely to be playing for different clubs in a year’s time. There is an argument to allow Pochettino to rebuild the squad in the summer, but those not being sentimental will realise it is time for the coach to be moved on to.
The tactics and team selection have grown stale this season, with Pochettino making questionable decisions that he previously wouldn’t have. If they continue to struggle, recency bias will lead to many supporters turning on him and the pressure could be overwhelming by the time that the summer rolls around. The current league position isn’t the fault of the Argentine alone, but his decisions have played a part in it.
Pochettino needs a fresh challenge to get him back to his best, in the same way that Klopp was revitalised by his appointment by Liverpool. Meanwhile, Tottenham need fresh ideas on the touchline to lead their new era next summer. This season is already looking like a lost cause, therefore there isn’t a need to force the issue by making a managerial change now. That said, a mutual parting of ways at the end of the season is likely to be the best for all involved.