Mauricio Pochettino, The New Marco Bielsa
Posted by Luke McKenzie | Published on April 15, 2016
6 years ago, nobody knew who Mauricio Pochettino was when it came to management, but now he’s one of the most talked about manager in world football, being linked with Real Madrid on the back of the transformation of Spurs this season. Pochettino took over Espanyol in January with the side third bottom in La Liga and eventually guiding them to finish tenth place. However, 3 years later, Pochettino’s contract was terminated by mutual consent with Espanyol being bottom of the league. Whilst he was at Espanyol, his side beat arguably the best team in the last decade in Barcelona when they rocked up to the Nou Camp and coming away with a 2-1 win which was their first win at Barcelona in 27 years. This led Pep Guardiola to say “There’re teams that wait for you and teams that look for you, Espanyol looks for you”. Pep also compared his style to his Barcelona side, with the high intensity and attacking style of play. It was also reported that Pochettino fitted his players with GPS’ devices to monitor his players every movement and used video replays to show them their mistakes.
On the 18th of January 2013, Southampton announced that Pochettino would be the club’s new manager, taking over from Nigel Adkins. At the time of this happening, many fans and pundits were surprised that Adkins got the sack given it was Southampton’s first time back in The Premier League after a number of years in the football league. That being said, the Argentinian’s first full season with the Saints, he guided them to 8th in the league and their highest ever points tally. He managed to get the best out of Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert, and Adam Lallana, who all hit double figures in the season.
After a successful 18 months at Southampton, Spurs came calling for his services and he quickly agreed to a 5-year contract. His first season at White Hart Lane was fairly successful, guiding Spurs to a 5th place finish and a cup final at Wembley to which they lost 2-0 to Chelsea. One of the biggest refreshments was the inclusion of academy graduates at the expense of big money signings, players such as Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb which all paid off massively. It wasn’t until the second season where Pochettino’s style really got going. The 44-year-old works 12-13 hour days to make sure training and match days are planned to perfection. Training sessions now at Spurs are like they’ve never been before, with sessions now practically emulating a game at 3pm. He demands fitness levels, intensity, and has turned his team into young players with high stamina and quick thinking, every player is 2/3 steps ahead of the opponent which what makes them so hard to beat.
Pochettino is a product of Bielsa, who coached Pochettino in his career. Their style of management is so similar, especially when Bielsa was at Bilbao when not even the great Sir Alex Ferguson could stop this style of play over the two legs. Pochettino lines up with a 4231 but when attacking it’s more of a 361. Eric Dier is vital in the way Spurs play, he’ll drop back into a back 3 with Vertonghen and Alderweireld allowing Rose and Walker to effectively play as wingers. That allows the single pivot which is normally Dembele, to be always in a position to receive the ball should the opposition press the player on the ball. Off the ball, Spurs have a trigger to press the opposition, that trigger is as soon as said team crosses the halfway line, Harry Kane will press, then Lamela, Then Eriksen and on and on till they win the ball back, you get the gist of it. If the opponent’s full back has the ball and is approaching the Spurs half, there will always be three players aligned with each other leaving one CM available to press if needed but by this time, the opponents have already passed the ball back to the keeper or to the CB.
Eriksen is also key in this setup without touching the ball while some fans will call him lazy or not interested. The Danish international does what the likes of Ozil and Muller do best and that’s create space for his opponents to operate in. This may seem simple to do, but it’s highly effective, It’s a trait only a few have and Eriksen has it, the understanding of finding the right pockets on the pitch without looking bothered just shows the intelligence of the player.