Wednesday 22 November 2017

Pochettino must believe for Spurs to take next step

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. Photo: PA
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. Photo: PA

Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs are close. A few more players and a bit more confidence and they might even get there. It might yet happen this season.

If they can beat West Ham tonight and close the gap to Chelsea to a single point, Antonio Conte will face another big test of nerve against Middlesbrough on Monday.

Logically, that should be a walk in the park but the top of the table can do strange things to people with silverware in sight.

All of that said, Chelsea have been the dominant team all season and while Spurs have undoubtedly and to me, surprisingly, made significant progress since their collapse last term, they now have to push on again and add the players they are missing.

I genuinely thought they would struggle this season and do well to finish in mid-table. A very young squad took a major psychological hit and the following season in circumstances like that is often very difficult.

But great credit to Pochettino and his players for coming back stronger. To take the next step requires the manager to find some more players and that's the hard part.

To use Chelsea as a comparison, Spurs are as good at the back, as good or better in terms of attacking power but in midfield, they don't have an N'Golo Kante or a Willian.

They have Victor Wanyama, an identikit 'modern' midfielder who passes sideways more than forward but will run all day and probably accumulates good statistics.

And they have Eric Dier, a centre-back playing out of position and for me, very obviously so.

The question is whether Pochettino recognises these shortcomings and tries to improve his squad in the summer or believes that this group of players is good enough to win a title.

His defence definitely is and you won't find two deadlier strikers in England than Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

I still have some reservations about Alli's fondness for ill-discipline but I'm hoping age will teach him moderation

For Pochettino to achieve the kind of consistency that Chelsea have managed for most of the season, I think he needs stronger and more creative midfielders.

Put it this way, put Edin Hazard and Kante in the team and Spurs would start next season as title favourites.

I still have a question mark in my mind about Tottenham after Pochettino's response when he lost at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final.

This was a huge chance to damage Chelsea and they blew it but he was almost deferential after losing and admitted that he was proud of his players because they were competing with bigger teams.

I can't get that out of my mind since I heard it. With Spurs, it has always been: "well we didn't do it this season but we will next season."

Next season comes along and up until a few years ago, the players who created the expectation were sold on.

That has always been the Spurs story and Pochettino seemed to underline that idea when he spoke so meekly.

Assuming that Daniel Levy shows restraint and that he spends enough money to bring in the kind of players he needs, Pochettino will start next season in a great position.

Perhaps he needs to believe that himself. Expectations will be high, both internally and externally and the Champions League will put added pressure on his squad.

But if Spurs really want to grow up and become the club they have always believed they should be, the leadership will come from the manager.

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