Big summer for… Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino
The Premier League may be in its off-season break but there will be little rest this summer for the country’s leading managers.
With the challenges to come in the 2018/19 season already at the forefront of their minds, they will have a busy few weeks ahead, preparing and plotting how their team can improve on the previous campaign.
All this week, we will be taking a look at what the top managers will be mulling over while their players are away on holiday or at the World Cup. Next up is Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager.
The Argentine guided Spurs to a third consecutive top-four finish, and with it, the promise of Champions League at their new stadium, but even after signing a new five-year deal at the close of the campaign, uncertainty over his future still lingers heading into the summer…
Will Real come calling?
“We have been on an extraordinary journey and the times ahead look even more exciting as the club enters the next phase in its history.”
These words from Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy came after Pochettino put pen to paper on a new five-year contract, but the dawning of this next phase has been met with an unwelcome distraction.
Following the departure of Zinedine Zidane, European champions Real Madrid are looking for a new manager – and Pochettino has been identified as their number one target
Though it now appears Real will turn their attentions elsewhere, Spurs fans are unlikely to rest easy until Real unveil anyone but their man. Once this happens, should it happen, then Pochettino’s pre-season preparations can finally begin.
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Shackles off in the transfer market?
As construction comes to an end on Tottenham’s new stadium, it appears a restructuring of the squad is about to get underway.
The Pochettino project has so far been managed on a tight budget – with a net spend of £50m since he took charge in 2014 – but after seeking reassurances from Levy, it looks as though the club will now “be brave and take risks” in the transfer market.
A figure of £150m has been widely reported as Pochettino’s budget, with Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon, Lille midfielder Yves Bissouma and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha among their reported targets.
Meanwhile, the need to supplement Harry Kane up front is unlikely to be ignored, with Vincent Janssen – who was loaned out the Fenerbahce last season – and Fernando Llorente failing to meet expectations. The versatility of reported target Anthony Martial could make the Manchester United forward an attractive prospect, should the Frenchman look to leave Old Trafford.
There is also the futures of Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembele and Danny Rose which need to be resolved this summer. It’s a near-certainty Pochettino will hold talks with this trio after their World Cup ventures, and Spurs’ transfer activity will likely hinge on which players leave the club.
So what are the 2018/19 objectives?
Tottenham ended the 2017/18 season in third with 77 points, nine fewer than their previous campaign. Both totals are comfortably their greatest since the Premier League era began, but Pochettino will naturally want to avoid another slip of similar proportions.
Looking up, Spurs finished 23 points behind runaway winners Manchester City, and just four off runners-up Manchester United. The prospect of overhauling the champions already looks daunting before a ball has been kicked, but to become City’s nearest challengers, and perhaps expose some chinks in their armour, would be another step in the right direction for Pochettino and Spurs.
There will also be the want to settle in quickly at their new home. Spurs left White Hart Lane on the back of an unbeaten domestic campaign at the ground (W17 D2), but picked up 10 fewer points at Wembley last season (W13 D4 L2).
For Pochettino comes the tricky task of trying to rebuild a fortress, and he will look to do so without forcing the issue or placing a heavy emphasis on its importance. Favourable fixtures early on could help with this transition, but the real test will come when they first host a fellow top-six club.
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And it’s in this aspect where Pochettino will look to improve. Tottenham’s league finish was mirrored by their placing in a top-six mini-table, but only Arsenal suffered more defeats in matches against the fellow top six.
Premier League top six mini-table 2017-18
|Man City||W8 D0 L2||24pts|
|Man Utd||W6 D1 L3||19pts|
|Tottenham||W4 D1 L5||13pts|
|Chelsea||W3 D3 L4||12pts|
|Liverpool||W2 D4 L3||9pts|
|Arsenal||W1 D3 L6||7pts|
It’s undoubtedly a tough area to make inroads on, but if Pochettino can find the solution, and also sustain a Champions League run deep into the knockout stages, then it will be another forward step for the club under his guidance.
When are Spurs back in action?
Spurs return to the USA to compete in the International Champions Cup, with Roma their first opponents in San Diego on July 25.
The fixture comes just 10 days after the World Cup concludes, but that should afford Pochettino time to embed some new faces in the squad.
Spurs pre-season fixtures:
July 25: Roma (San Diego, USA)
July 28: Barcelona (Los Angeles, USA)
July 31: AC Milan (Minneapolis, USA)