For the last few weeks I have had a strange feeling of deja-vu as I’ve watched Tottenham struggle. Playing well in patches, a series of unfortunate events seemed to have derailed Mauricio Pochettino’s plans.
There was the goal conceded against Southampton, where Hugo Lloris tried to pull off a Cruyff turn in his six yard box. This would have been bad enough even if it hadn’t come moments after Serge Aurier’s sending off. Up to that point Spurs had been one nil up and cruising.
There was yesterday’s freak and horrifying injury to Lloris, coming in the act of conceding another highly unusual goal.
There was the midweek drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich. A contest where we had dominated the first 40 minutes, where we were out-shot by a mere 18-15, yet somehow came away humiliated by the worst home defeat ever suffered by an English club in top level European competition.
The last time watching Spurs felt like this, was at the start of the 2008-2009 season in the short reign of Juande Ramos, and we all know how that ended.
But is this the end for Pochettino?
The warning signs have been there for some time now. At the end of last season we struggled to a fortuitous fourth place only because we were slightly less inconsistent than the competition. This season hasn’t started any better, with losses to relegation candidates Newcastle and Brighton to add to the Bayern debacle. The squad is rife with players nearing the end of their contracts and rumours of unrest. Last term’s Champions League run masked a multitude of sins.
Over Pochettino’s tenure the squad has aged. It used to be full of energy and promise, now through a lack of transfer activity and chances for academy players, it has become old and stale. This summer the club did try to put that right with the purchases of NDombele, Lo Celso and Sessegnon and the promotion to the first team of Kyle Walker-Peters, but injuries have stalled progress.
There is a concept of a cycle in football. After three to five years most teams get fed up of their manager. It happens to the very best – Mourinho’s career is the textbook example of this phenomenon. Only a very small number can avoid it. Ferguson is the only clear case I can think of, but you could argue it happened to him too, he just got rid of the team each time and started again. And maybe this is the lesson Pochettino can learn.
There was a time early on in the Argentine’s reign where things looked like they could be over even before they had begun. It was November 2014 and Spurs had just suffered a dispiriting 2-1 home loss to Mark Hughes’ Stoke. The Tottenham crowd booed the players off at half time, 2-0 down, and although we pulled a goal back, it wasn’t enough as Kyle Naughton was sent off late on.
Younes Kaboul captained that Tottenham team. Etienne Capoue was in the centre of the midfield. Vice captain Emmanuel Adebayor came on as a substitute as we were chasing the game. The next time the team ran out, two weeks later after an international break, not one of them even made the squad.
That was the point this current Tottenham team really began. Now five years later, after a similarly chastening defeat, with another international break giving him space to think, maybe it’s time for similarly ruthless action from the Tottenham manager.