Spurs sack Pochettino: Battle of the Bridge, Champions League comebacks among highs and lows

By Sports Desk November 19, 2019

Mauricio Pochettino arrived at Tottenham as the club's eighth full-time appointment since March 2001.

Juande Ramos secured silverware during his tenure, winning the League Cup in 2008, while Harry Redknapp qualified for the Champions League two years later.

Still, they were the good times. Club legend Glenn Hoddle came with great expectations that fell flat. Frenchman Jacques Santini did not last too long. Andre Villas-Boas failed to pan out. Tim Sherwood did make the gilet popular, but Spurs still decided to dispense with his services.

Then, in 2014, Pochettino turned up. The former Argentina international had shone at Southampton, quickly dispelling the doubters who felt Nigel Adkins had been harshly sacked.

There were plenty of positive moments during his tenure, but also some difficult times. Following the news of his departure on Tuesday, Omnisport picks out a few of the highs and lows of Pochettino's reign.

 

LOW: THE ONLY WAY IS UP

"There is an abundance of top-class talent at the club and I am looking forward to starting work with the squad," Pochettino said following his appointment.

However, Tottenham's standing compared to the other big clubs was laid bare in the first month of the new boss' debut campaign. Liverpool were the visitors, with Spurs hoping for the chance to make something of a statement, but Brendan Rodgers' Reds blew them away with ease by winning 3-0.

It was Spurs' first loss under Pochettino and they went on to miss out on Champions League qualification by six points. 

 

LOW: THE BATTLE OF THE BRIDGE

There was no denying Tottenham's vast improvement between Pochettino's first few months and 2016, when they looked to challenge for a maiden Premier League title.

Crucially, though, when they needed to kick on with the finishing post in sight, the going became too tough. Spurs squandered a 2-0 lead at Chelsea in an ill-tempered London derby to come away with a 2-2 draw, therefore securing a famous success for Leicester City.

"It was a good lesson for us, we are the youngest squad in the league, we feel very proud and our supporters need to feel proud too, we have massive potential for the future," Pochettino said in the aftermath. Such was their collapse down the stretch, they eventually finished third, 11 points behind the Foxes they had been expected to catch.


HIGH: SAYING FAREWELL TO THE LANE IN STYLE

Having seemingly established themselves as top-four regulars, Spurs looked to further consolidate their new-found status by moving to an extravagant new stadium.

In Tottenham's final outing at the more modest White Hart Lane in May 2017, Spurs downed Manchester United 2-1 in front of a crowd enjoying both their team's success and also the chance to be inside the venue for one final time. A glamourous new era seemed to be on the horizon, with Pochettino steering the Spurs ship expertly.

The result made sure they went unbeaten at home for the first time in a league season since 1964-65 as they finished in second place. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to their famous home.

 


HIGH: UNITED FALL AT OLD TRAFFORD

In August 2018, Pochettino was among the favourites to replace an under-fire Jose Mourinho at United.

Pochettino helped inflict more misery on the Red Devils with an emphatic 3-0 win at Old Trafford, a result that also pushed his claims for the job. Kane and a Lucas Moura double did the damage, making it United's worst start to a league season since 1992-93. 

Yet when Mourinho eventually left United before the turn of the year, Pochettino stayed put. Now a free agent, rumours of a move to the north-west will no doubt grow in the coming weeks and months.


HIGH: EURO VISION SECURES FINAL SPOT

After three games of their campaign in Group B, Tottenham appeared on course to slip out of the Champions League. By June, they were appearing in the final.

Pochettino engineered a remarkable turnaround just to make the knockout stages, where they stunned Manchester City in the quarter-finals thanks to a hotly disputed goal from Fernando Llorente in an eventful second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

There was more drama to come in the last four, with Spurs scoring three times in the second half in Amsterdam to stun Ajax. Lucas Moura was Tottenham's hero, completing his hat-trick in additional time to seal their progression on away goals. A jubilant Pochettino shed tears during wild celebrations with his players.


LOW: MISSED OPPORTUNITY IN MADRID

Admittedly appearing in a Champions League final hardly feels like a disappointment during the Pochettino era.

Still, there was an air of frustration at how they approached what proved to be a tepid contest in Madrid, with fans bemoaning an apparent lack of attacking intent as a half-fit Harry Kane struggled to make an impact.

Mohamed Salah's early penalty gave Spurs an uphill struggle and Divock Origi wrapped things up late on. Liverpool had barely made it out of second gear but kept their opponents quiet to prevail in an all-English final that will not live long in the memory. 


LOW: BAYERN BATTERING AMID HOME STRUGGLES

Pochettino had hinted he could leave his post prior to the Champions League showpiece, his future seemingly based on the club's progress in the off-season transfer window.

While new faces arrived, their form in the early stages of the 2019-20 campaign has been poor - and that is putting it kindly. In the Premier League, Spurs have picked up just 14 points, their lowest tally after 12 games of a campaign since 2008-09. There was also a 7-2 home loss to Bayern Munich in Europe, the embarrassment exacerbated by an Arsenal academy product – Serge Gnabry – scoring four times for the visitors.

A 1-1 draw with Sheffield United turned out to be Pochettino's final game in charge. There is still time for Spurs to turn things around, of course, but it will have to be with a new man at the helm.

Related items

  • Koulibaly could end career at Napoli despite Premier League rumours Koulibaly could end career at Napoli despite Premier League rumours

    Kalidou Koulibaly says he could finish his career with Napoli despite persistent rumours linking him with Premier League clubs.

    The centre-back has been heavily linked with Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United, while Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain have also been credited with interest.

    Having turned 29 last month, the Senegal international's transfer value is unlikely to get any higher, and he accepts his future is largely in the hands of Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

    However, Koulibaly would be happy to spend the rest of his playing days with the Partenopei as his family is settled in the city.

    "My family is doing very well in Naples and that makes me happy. It's only thanks to them that I've been here for six years because, if they weren't happy, I'd have left already," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

    "My children speak Italian as well as French. We speak both languages at home. We live peacefully here.

    "I hear that I'll be leaving, but I'm fine here. I don't understand why we should talk about the market when there's nothing on the horizon. There's a new one every day.

    "You never know what happens in football. I never spoke to the club to leave. If we have to find a solution, we will, but I've never talked about the transfer market.

    "I read about my future in the newspapers but I only want to think about playing. I'm 100 per cent for Napoli and it bothers me being linked every day to this or that European club.

    "We'll see what the president decides, if he proposes extending my contract, which would allow me to end my career here. At the moment, I still have three years on my contract.

    "I wouldn't say no [to ending my career here]. But I don't want to deceive anyone. We know how things are in football - maybe you say you'll stay for life, and then you're sold.

    "So, I tell the fans that I will give 200-300 percent while I'm wearing this shirt."

    Koulibaly has even spoken to Victor Osimhen, the Lille forward heavily linked with Napoli, about the benefits of moving to the club.

    "It's true he called me," Koulibaly said. "We talked about racism. I told him he wouldn't have these problems coming to Naples, that he'll choose the right city.

    "I've also felt the bitterness of racist insults, but never in Naples. I reassured him: I told him that, if he comes, he'll have made the best choice."

  • Premier League: Antonio masterclass condemns Norwich to drop Premier League: Antonio masterclass condemns Norwich to drop

    Michail Antonio condemned Norwich City to relegation from the Premier League with all four goals in a 4-0 win for West Ham that significantly bolsters their survival hopes.

    Bottom club Norwich needed all three points to have any hope of preserving their top-flight status but were undone by a superb individual performance from Antonio.

    The 30-year-old opened the scoring with a back-post volley in the 11th minute and headed into the bottom-right corner in first-half stoppage time to give Norwich a mountain to climb.

    Antonio nodded in on the rebound having been denied one on one by Tim Krul to complete his hat-trick nine minutes into the second half.

    It was 4-0 in the 74th minute when Antonio flicked home at the near post on a miserable day for Norwich as their return back to the Championship was confirmed.

    David Moyes' Hammers are six points clear of the bottom three with three matches to play, though 18th-placed Bournemouth have a game in hand.

    Watford also have a six-point buffer to the Cherries after coming from behind to beat Newcastle United 2-1 with a pair of Troy Deeney penalties.

    The Hornets were deservedly behind when Dwight Gayle tapped in from Federico Fernandez's header, but Newcastle did not take full advantage of their first-half superiority and paid the price after the restart.

    Matt Ritchie was adjudged to have felled Kiko Femenia and Deeney thrashed home to level matters, a feat he repeated eight minutes from time following dreadful defending from Javier Manquillo to seal the points.

  • Man Utd boss Solskjaer admits plans for next season are 'up in the air' Man Utd boss Solskjaer admits plans for next season are 'up in the air'

    Manchester United's plans for next season remain "up in the air", according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

    The delayed end to the 2019-20 season caused by coronavirus has meant a lot of the customary off-season planning has had to be shelved while United's pursuit of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification has exacerbated the problem at Old Trafford.

    United's blistering form post-lockdown means wins in their four remaining games will see them secure a place among Europe's elite next term, although fifth may yet be enough depending on how the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) views Manchester City's appeal against a two-season European ban.

    With so many variables, Solskjaer concedes there is only so much forward-thinking possible at present.

    Speaking ahead of Monday's game against Southampton, he said: "You can't really decide on the training programme, there are so many small decisions and, of course, transfers sometimes are out of our hands as well.

    "If the team is going well, what do we need? What don't we need? Do we get injuries? That's just the way we're working in this job and you've always got to plan for different scenarios.

    "The uncertainty of dates, how much holiday can you give them, what will next season look like, it's still a little bit up in the air.

    "I don't think it's like dramatic decisions, I don't think the club would either panic or suddenly go crazy with plans that we've already talked about for years to come.

    "You do have to have a long-term plan but some short-term, maybe some decisions will be easier to make if you get [into] the Champions League."

    United have received plenty of plaudits for their attack-minded approach since the Premier League resumed but Solskjaer was also keen to talk up the importance of a defence that has conceded just three goals in the past five games in all competitions.

    He said: "It's about winning, of course it is, but it's also about our fans and the way we approach the game, how we approach football.

    "You play with pace, power, you play with no fear, you take risks and you've got players who have got quality. That's just the DNA of the football club.

    "Of course, I'm happy when you don't concede but it's always been built on a strong foundation.

    "When we had [Jaap] Stam and [Ronny] Johnsen, [Gary] Pallister and [Steve] Bruce, fantastic keepers behind them, the engine room with Roy Keane and Bryan Robson laid down foundations for forwards to show their skills. We just need to take it one game at a time.

    "Now it's time to keep our feet on the ground, keep working, and don't believe all the hype and praise. Same as not believing in all the criticism when you don't do well: the end is not too far away, so the goal is getting closer."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.