And so the Tottenham managerial merry go round picks up another passenger. This time the man taken for a spin will be Mauricio Pochettino, the highly rated manager of last season’s surprise package Southampton, who has agreed to a five-year deal. The former Argentine international turned manager comes with a reputation for high intensity, high pressing, attacking football which sounds eerily close to the mythical “Tottenham” way. On the other hand it also sounds very similar to the type of football that Andre Villas-Boas was supposedly trying to instill at the club. There are several things that Pochettino will have to do – and do quickly, given Chairman Daniel Levy’s impatience – if he wants to keep the job for longer than a season.
1) Get the team to buy into his ideas – and quickly
First things first, Pochettino will have to get the team on his side quickly. Tottenham have a number of relatively high profile internationals on their books, some of whom have been brought in at great expense. Pochettino will have to prove to these players that his methods can work and that he can make the team play better. Given the relative youth of the team this task should be easier than it would be at say Chelsea or Manchester United, but Tottenham is still a big step up in terms of profile and expectation from Southampton. Pochettino will have to make the players believe that he is up to the task.
2) Work out his best team
One of Tottenham’s big problems last season was that neither AVB nor Tim Sherwood ever seemed to be able to get a decent grip on what their best team was. In a sense, both were put in a tough position. AVB oversaw the arrival of seven new players with no Premier League experience alongside the departure of several players (not just Gareth Bale) who played key roles in the team the season before. Tim Sherwood had to take over half way through the season so he too had to work out his best team on the fly. In the end neither succeeded. Pochettino, by contrast, should have some time over the summer to work out who will fit into his tactical schemes. Spurs are unlikely to bring in a vast quantity of new names this summer after last summer’s debacle, so Pochettino should have the pre-season to plan what he wants to do. Of course he doesn’t necessarily have to stick to the team he chooses at the beginning but the team will probably benefit from at least a general idea of who will be playing where from week to week.
3) Figure out Daniel Levy
This is perhaps the most difficult task, and one that arguably no Tottenham manager has ever succeeded in doing. Time and time again managers have fallen foul of Tottenham’s media-shy chairman. Pochettino will have to work out Levy’s foibles and make sure he understands exactly what is expected of him and his team. He may also have to stand his ground when the chairman is being unreasonable, but do so in a way that does not antagonize the man in charge. It will be quite the tightrope that Pochettino must walk but if he is to have any success at White Hart Lane, he’ll have to make sure he doesn’t fall off.
4) Choose a good captain
Due to the number of personnel changes that Tottenham has endured over the last season, most of the players have only been at the club for a couple of seasons. This has made it difficult for managers to choose a good captain. It’s tough to give the armband to somebody who has just arrived, even if they are the most suitable in terms of character. Last season the captain was Michael Dawson and he never quite seemed comfortable in the role. Dawson seems more of a very capable deputy rather than a team leader and at times, Spurs seemed to suffer from the lack of a player who could motivate the team and take the bull by the horns. My choice for captain would be Hugo Lloris, but there is a decent chance that the France captain may not be at the club next season. Pochettino will have to choose his captain wisely and make sure it is somebody who the players respect and can get behind.
5) Help Erik Lamela
Poor old Erik Lamela. Tottenham’s record signing has been the butt of endless jokes this season from opposing fans and Tottenham fans alike. Tottenham’s record signing has had a season to forget, particularly as he has missed most of the season through injury. This does not mean, however, that he has suddenly become a bad player. There is a chance that his game will not adapt to the Premier League, but given the glowing reports he has received from every club he has played for thus far its probably worth waiting a little longer. As Pochettino is from the same country as Lamela, communication should not be an issue and one of new manager’s main tasks will be to get the best (or at least something!) out of the young star.