When Pochettino arrived to these shores back in January 2013, few would have known the credentials of the Argentinian who didn’t speak a word of English. Some might have remembered him as the centre back who upended Michael Owen during the 2002 World Cup, but that is about as much most people knew of him.
To begin with, his time in England was not easy. Pochettino‘s appointment had become a concern for the league itself, another foreign manager replacing a British manager. Being a Saints fan myself, I can recall the opinion of the fans on Pochettino and the board who had been so quick to sack Nigel Adkins. Adkins was a real fans favourite, why wouldn’t he be? He had taken Southampton back to the promised land with back to back promotions and managed a mid-table position in the Premier League.
Adkins didn’t represent a manager who deserved to be sacked, in fact his last game was a 2-2 draw away at Stamford Bridge. Hardly relegation form. Pochettino knew he would have to hit the ground running when he arrived.
Of course, as we now know, the change in management proved to be a success story, and Southampton became a very formidable opponent over the course of the next 18 months. Their success was built on non-stop workhorse training sessions. Mauricio would get so engrossed in his training sessions, that players would have to bring portable clocks so that he could be reminded if he ran overtime.
In a nutshell, Pochettino prides himself on his teams being fitter than his opponents. He instructs his players to continually apply pressure on opposition players. The key intention being to force the opposing team into making a mistake, and then to be physically fit enough to be capitalise on the error when attacking.
Okay, that’s enough looking into the history and tactics of the man. Let’s get back on track about what this is really about – his contribution to the current English national side.
England provided one of their most exciting performances in recent times, when coming back from behind to beat Germany 3-2 in Berlin. It could be very easy to give all the credit to Roy Hodgson and forget about any input from anyone else. But the pattern of players that kept cropping up either via commentators or pundits praising the individuals, made it impossible to do so.
The likes of Rose, Dier, Alli and of course Kane all impressed in the win against Germany, and will be hoping to secure their position in the starting eleven over the upcoming friendlies.
For me, Danny Rose particularly stepped up. An abundance of stamina alongside a defensively strong mindset, meant Rose could defend primarily but also be a key member to pushing further into the opponent’s half; just how Pochettino likes his players to function.
Let’s take a moment away from the resilient England performance itself two weeks ago and look at some of the players the Tottenham manager has worked with during his time in England:
From Tottenham: Alli, Dier, Rose, Kane, Mason, Walker and Townsend
From Southampton: Ward-Prowse, Lambert, Lallana, Shaw, Rodriguez and Chambers
It can be argued that these players were already key established players at Southampton. Or that these two clubs in particular have always produced talented footballers. Even if that is the case, Mauricio Pochettino has certainly helped to develop a platform for players to be able to express themselves on the pitch whilst also still remembering their pressing responsibilities.
The once Espanyol manager is even attracting praise from one of the most respected managers have graced the game, with Sir Alex Ferguson suggesting that he is now the best manager in the Premier League.
I believe that the primary reason England fans should be appreciative towards Pochettino, is that not only has he identified young English talent such as Dier and Alli, but he’s also given it a chance at a first team level. It would have been very easy for Dier to have been dropped at the beginning of his Spurs career when he was labelled too immobile to play at centre back. Fast forward several months on, Dier has blossomed to a promising defensive midfielder, playing with ease against some of Europe’s elite.
Players need time and trust from their manager to be able to succeed. They may be fearless but could be prone to becoming unconfident if costly mistakes take place. Another example is Harry Kane, after his purple patch last season, it took Kane several games to get going this season. Did he get dropped? No, Mauricio stuck by his man, and now both Tottenham and England are set to benefit from that decision.
The fact Tottenham have resisted the urge to sign more experienced ‘superstars‘, in a time where money is no object, is a testament to Pochettino and his approach to help develop club talent instead.
If we want to have success at international level similar to the progress Spain and Germany have had in recent times, Mauricio’s approach of incorporating English talent should become a must for other clubs too.
It was evident that the core of players who performed well in the victory over Germany were mainly Tottenham players. Why? They’re used to playing with one another over an extended string of games and have taken that forward to international level too.
Dele Alli has had a remarkable season, playing with complete freedom. His link up play with Kane has been a particular highlight. But could you imagine Alli being given the same amount of first team game time if he had signed for Man City or Arsenal? I can’t. Undoubtedly that would have impacted his chances with the national side. A player who is almost certain to start at the European Championships in the summer, would have been lucky to even make the squad if it wasn’t for Pochettino’s unconditional trust in youth.