LONDON — Of all of the methods wherein Mauricio Pochettino might have returned to Tottenham Hotspur, few would have predicted the circumstances that led to Monday night time’s reunion.
Pochettino, the person who took Spurs to the brink of glory at house and overseas, the person nonetheless with a robust connection to a number of gamers and workers on the membership in the present day, and the person many supporters wished again within the dugout as not too long ago as this summer season, will as a substitute come again because the troubled head coach of Chelsea, certainly one of their bitterest London rivals.
Tottenham followers usually enjoy any Chelsea misfortune. They nonetheless will, after all, on Monday, however Pochettino’s presence within the opposing dugout could immediate a momentary pause for thought. The 51-year-old was sacked by Tottenham in November 2019, 171 days after their first-ever Champions League remaining led to a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.
Chairman Daniel Levy’s accompanying assertion spoke of his “excessive reluctance” to take away the Argentine from his submit after five-and-a-half years wherein the membership turned top-four regulars and virtually gained the Premier League title in 2017.
That incapacity to take the ultimate step, coupled with an alarming stoop in kind which left Spurs 14th within the Premier League, prompted Levy to exchange Pochettino with two people he felt had been confirmed winners in Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, both facet of an ill-fated transient dalliance with Nuno Espirito Santo.
Nonetheless, as a substitute of taking the ultimate brief step to silverware, Spurs slipped again into mediocrity throughout a four-year spell the place Pochettino’s affect continued to forged a shadow over the membership.
When Spurs exited the Champions League on the round-of-16 stage to AC Milan in March following one other insipid show, Pochettino was out of labor having left Paris Saint-Germain the earlier July. Tottenham followers sang Pochettino’s title loud and clear that night time in a direct message to Levy that the soul of their membership had been misplaced and just one man might revive it.
And so when those self same supporters chanted “We have our Tottenham again” throughout Ange Postecoglou’s second sport in cost, they had been recalling the halcyon days of Pochettino’s tenure, combined because it was with a mix of exhilarating and successful soccer. It is a level not misplaced on Postecoglou himself.
Talking on Thursday, the Australian mentioned: “His work is unquestioned. Everybody I converse to round right here, there are nonetheless individuals who labored with him, they can not converse extremely sufficient of him as an individual, as a supervisor. I doubt there could be something however respect for Mauricio from anybody at this soccer membership — supporters or folks related to it.
“That does not imply he’ll get a guard of honour on Monday night time as a result of we need to win. And I do not assume he would count on that. However his tenure and affect right here is simple and can stand the check of time that each time folks consider Mauricio and his time as Spurs supervisor, will solely look upon it with respect and fondness.”
Pochettino was not sure of the reception he would get however insisted on Friday that nothing might bitter his reminiscences of Tottenham.
“I am not going to say something in the intervening time as a result of till Monday we can’t guess,” he mentioned. “A very powerful is folks know we can’t neglect what we lived collectively. Wonderful reminiscences after which I’ll respect the folks, how they are going to specific. It will not change my feelings, my view, my emotions a few membership the place we spent an unbelievable journey.
“Coming again after 4 years to a spot we now have superb reminiscences and create superb reminiscences collectively, I believe it’s particular. I can’t lie.”
The timing of his first look again at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium — which, by the way, Pochettino helped offset the event of by guiding the staff so successfully by way of an virtually two-season use of Wembley as their momentary house — is especially awkward given the job Postecoglou has achieved in the identical timeframe as his rival.
Each males began their present posts on July 1. Postecoglou had to deal with the lack of talismanic striker Harry Kane, a saga which dragged on by way of everything of preseason earlier than he left for a €100m transfer to Bayern Munich. However privately, the Australian admitted defeat early on in staving off Bayern‘s advances, permitting him to plan for all times after Kane.
Spurs have exceeded all expectations with out Kane — the membership’s all-time file aim scorer — in topping the Premier League after 10 video games.
Son Heung-Min has changed his partnership with Kane by putting up an instantaneous understanding with James Maddison, a summer season acquisition from Leicester Metropolis, whereas Postecoglou has rescued the stalling careers of Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr in a new-look midfield. Proper-back Future Udogie has excelled after spending final season on mortgage at Udinese whereas one other new boy, Micky van de Ven, has regarded the type of commanding centre-back Tottenham have lacked for years.
These are nonetheless formative days within the season however Spurs all of the sudden resemble the type of animal that would gatecrash what many anticipated could be a two-horse race between Manchester Metropolis and Arsenal for the Premier League title.
Against this, throughout London sits the camel, fabled as “a horse designed by a committee.” Sources have informed ESPN that Postecoglou took a agency hand in Tottenham’s participant recruitment, permitting a readability of thought that has seemingly aided their switch enterprise. Pochettino has incessantly instructed there have been choices taken on gamers previous to his arrival at Chelsea — Romelu Lukaku being a high-profile and apparent instance — and though he was undoubtedly consulted on each ins and outs, the Todd Boehly/Clearlake Capital mannequin of signing younger gamers on long-term contracts pre-dates him.
The knock-on impact of spending such cash on potential, with offers working to the top of the last decade, is it heightens the strain on the supervisor as a result of he’s much more clearly essentially the most dispensable component if issues go mistaken.
And issues aren’t precisely going to plan. Chelsea have proven flashes of potential — there appears to be real promise in a midfield three of Moisés Caicedo, Enzo Fernández and Conor Gallagher, whereas Mykhailo Mudryk is stirring into life. However Chelsea will quickly attain some extent the place they will begin to moderately count on extra from the £1 billion spent by Boehly and Clearlake since their takeover in Could 2022.
“We’re in a special challenge to Tottenham,” mentioned Pochettino. “All of the historical past of Chelsea is to win huge issues. Possibly Chelsea at the moment are with Manchester United and Liverpool are the most important membership in England. I believe Chelsea within the final 15 years gained too many titles, a number of titles, now we’re in a special scenario the place we’re constructing one thing for the longer term.
“Possibly we battle just a little bit to start with, due to particulars we aren’t managing properly. That’s the reason we lose too many factors, perhaps we deserve extra however as a result of we’re so younger as a staff, perhaps we aren’t managing the scenario.
“Ange and the opposite coaches, they’re doing a implausible job [at Tottenham]. Superb gamers, superb staff and you may really feel they could be a contender. It’s early within the season however they’re displaying the standard to be a contender.”
One key distinction between Postecoglou and Pochettino of their working circumstances is available in accidents. Six gamers have began all 10 of Tottenham’s Premier League video games: Guglielmo Vicario, Van de Ven, Cristian Romero, Maddison, Son, and Dejan Kulusevski. 4 extra have began 9.
Chelsea have been in a position to depend on Robert Sánchez, Thiago Silva, Levi Colwill, and Gallagher to start out all 10 league matches however the harm listing has at all times been longer with Christopher Nkunku sidelined in preseason and Romeo Lavia but to kick a ball following a £58m transfer from Southampton in mid-August.
Wesley Fofana will miss the vast majority of the season following knee surgical procedure, new captain Reece James hasn’t began a league sport for the reason that opening weekend of the season whereas Ben Chilwell is in Los Angeles recovering from a hamstring drawback. Nkunku’s absence has compounded the shortage of firepower in Chelsea’s squad, regardless of their lavish rebuild.
In his absence, Pochettino, rightly, has pointed to a listing of missed probabilities in video games. Regardless of Spurs scoring 9 objectives extra (22 vs. 13), Chelsea even have the next anticipated objectives determine thus far: 18.54 to Tottenham’s 17.78.
However bear in mind: it was Spurs who had been imagined to battle for objectives this season with out Kane, not the membership spending eyewatering sums in overhauling their squad.
The sheer scale of change at Stamford Bridge was at all times going to require endurance from the house owners, however the quick affect Postecoglou has made makes for an uncomfortable distinction to Pochettino, who has already overseen 4 league defeats. A fifth at his outdated house would elevate additional questions over the real looking limits of Chelsea’s aspirations this season.
A well-known floor will really feel like a fair lonelier place for Pochettino irrespective of the end result given his right-hand man, assistant coach Jesus Perez, is banned after encroaching into the opposition’s technical space throughout final weekend’s 2-0 house defeat to Brentford.
If something, it would add to the surreal really feel for Pochettino, who in attempting to beat Spurs on Monday can also be difficult the notion they’ve left him behind as soon as and for all.