Premier League

Liverpool's rise could convince Pochettino to leave Spurs

 • by Ryan Baldi
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There are myriad reasons why Mauricio Pochettino might elect to shun the anticipated advances of Manchester United and Real Madrid and remain in charge of Tottenham Hotspur.

The Argentinian has established a vibrant, young, cohesive team in north London since his 2014 appointment, with Spurs now a top-four staple, punching above their weight in the Champions League and about to move into a sparkling new stadium his success has played no small part in financing.

But Pochettino might cast an envious glance at what Jürgen Klopp is achieving with Liverpool this season and wonder whether his personal ambitions will only be satisfied with a move away from the new White Hart Lane.

Like Pochettino, Klopp implemented a policy of gradual, sustainable progress upon taking charge of the Reds in October 2015.

Through intelligent, modest spending in the transfer market, the integration of high-potential young players and the instilling of a collective ethos and a well-defined tactical plan, the German restored Liverpool to regular top-four occupiers.

Sissoko

Klopp’s methods had a similar organic feel to Pochettino’s, and there are parallels between the two tacticians’ philosophies on team-building and playing style.

Yet, like Spurs, Liverpool retained a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot when apparently on the cusp on breaking through to the next level, into genuine title contention. A run of impressive results and efficient performances would be truncated abruptly by an inexplicable dropping of points against an obviously inferior team, condemning them to remain a notch below the very best.

Until this season, that is. Liverpool are top of the Premier League and still undefeated after 20 games, the bookmakers’ favourites to secure what would be their first top-flight title in 29 years.

They are now as ruthless and mechanical in their dispatching of opponents as they are often exciting and easy on the eye. The slip-ups that meant every two paces of progress were followed swiftly back a regressive step have, it seems, been ironed out; it’s forward motion only these days.

Although the base of their current success is in the reaping of seeds sown through long-term planning, holistic thinking and a collective buy-in to an ideology, Liverpool had to spend big to get over the hump that rests between Manchester City and the rest of the league, between the contenders for major honours and everyone else.

Pochettino has spent £252million on signings in his four and half years with Tottenham. Not an insignificant sum, but one that pales in comparison with the likes of City, United, Chelsea and, now, Liverpool. Furthermore, after a summer of no incomings and chairman Daniel Levy’s “buy low, sell very high” stewardship of the purse strings, Spurs have a total net spend under Pochettino of just £50million.

Until recently, it was a similar story for Klopp. By the close of the 2017 summer transfer window, he had spent £146.3million on player purchases, with the £142million sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona last January ensuring a net spend in the black.

But since the final Anfield incoming of 2017, the £35million arrival of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal, the Reds have splashed an astronomical £236.55million, almost matching Pochettino’s entire transfer spend in the space of two windows.

At the time, eyebrows were raised by the record fees paid for Virgil van Dijk (£75million) and Alisson (£56.25million), but, with the centre-back and goalkeeper key to Liverpool owning by far the best defensive record in the Premier League this season, no one questions their value now.

Spurs stood still in the summer transfer window and, as a result, Liverpool have passed them by. Tottenham continue to exceed expectations, comfortably third in the league and navigating a treacherous Champions League group, despite only having the Premier League’s sixth-highest wage spend and occupying the same position in terms of general buying power.

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Yet Pochettino’s few detractors continue to level the complaint that he is yet to parlay his undeniable progress at Spurs into silverware. This neglects the fact that, given their relative spending, achieving regular qualification for the Champions League and more than holding their own among England’s “Big Six” and the best Europe has to offer is a far greater achievement than, say, winning the EFL Cup.

In truth, even if Pochettino were to guide Spurs to an EFL or FA Cup triumph, his critics would still bemoan the lack of a Premier League or Champions League crown, the only competitions that truly matter to the biggest clubs nowadays.

And it will be incredibly difficult to bridge that gap without the kind of investment in squad improvements that simply won’t be forthcoming for Pochettino. Levy insists financing the new stadium will not come at the cost of a reduced transfer budget, but with the comparatively austere status quo at Spurs, that’s hardly a cause for celebration.

While it is certainly the case that Tottenham possess a better, more well-rounded squad than Manchester United at present, they cannot match the Red Devils for spending power.

The Old Trafford job would come with plenty of problems for Pochettino to solve, but, like any top manager, he’d back himself to solve them, to wrestle hold of a club lost at sea and, through the methods he has honed at Tottenham and Southampton, to build.

Then, with the kind of transfer budget José Mourinho enjoyed, he’d fancy himself to knock Liverpool back off the perch they have reassumed.

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