Mauricio Pochettino edges one step closer to ending the great silverware debate with Carabao Cup win against Chelsea
Mauricio Pochettino struck a discordant note before the first leg of Tottenham’s League Cup semi-final against Chelsea. “I hope, or I wish to be here 20 years, and decide to leave or to finish my career here,” he said when asked about his future at Spurs for the umpteenth time this season. “I am so focused here, and want to help the club to achieve what the club want to be in history.”
No matter how many times Pochettino reaffirms his commitment to Spurs, there are many who suspect that he will not, in fact, be managing the north London club in two decades’ time. Whether or not he has some burning ambition to manage Real Madrid or Manchester United – with links to both emerging from beneath the grinding wheel of speculation on an almost daily basis – Spurs’ failure to make a single transfer since Lucas Moura last January is certainly an obstacle to his plans. He admitted as much in his pre-match press conference, saying: “At the moment we operate in the same way as five years ago when we arrived. Maybe we can win some titles but it is going to be a tough job to do because in that situation every club in the last five years was improving a lot.
“I saw a stat that in the last 10 years we were bottom of the spending list in Europe. We are doing a fantastic job, but if we want to be real contenders we need to operate in a different way in the future.”
The great silverware debate
Pochettino’s talk of titles and becoming “real contenders” suggests he is aware of the yawn-worthy debate over the terms of his success as Spurs manager. While most fans can see that, compared to the managers who immediately preceded him and indeed Spurs’ entire modern history, Pochettino is overdelivering and is entitled to say that he and his staff are doing a “fantastic job”, there are still the silverware fundamentalists who, like irritating whack-a-moles, are always waiting to pop up and ask exactly how many trophies he’s won.
The answer, as if it needs restating, is none. To put Pochettino’s lack of major honours in context, Tottenham have won two trophies in the last 20 years and the last was under Juande Ramos, who even the most fanatical silverware obsessive would struggle to argue was therefore a more successful manager than Pochettino. Still, like a zombie with both arms off and a gaping hole in its torso but shambling on in lieu of the requisite headshot, the great silverware debate goes on. Maurizio Sarri couldn’t resist dipping his toe into the discourse before Tuesday’s match, offering this knowing take on his managerial counterpart: “He is a very good coach, one of the best at the moment. I agree that he has to win a trophy. I hope not this [one].”
While Pochettino would not have needed any extra motivation against Chelsea, the thought of killing off the silverware debate once and for all must have seemed especially alluring after that sharp nudge to the ribs from Sarri. Now, having masterminded Spurs’ first cup win over their fierce rivals since Ramos’ side beat Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup final, Pochettino has given Sarri – also under huge pressure to win titles – a sharp nudge back. Though there is a second leg at Stamford Bridge to contend with, followed by a final which will almost certainly feature Manchester City, Spurs’ one-goal first-leg advantage edges them that much closer to the little slice of history which Pochettino alluded to pre-match.
Outsiders for the title where once they were no-hopers, participants in the Champions League, consistent overachievers on a much tighter budget than most of their direct rivals: the truth is that winning the League Cup would rank somewhere in the middle of Spurs’ successes under Pochettino. That said, in ending the great silverware debate, it would at least draw a line under one of the most tiresome talking points in recent memory. While it might not entirely make up for Spurs’ inactivity in the transfer market or the ongoing debacle that is their stadium move, that alone might go some way towards convincing Pochettino to remain.
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