What New Tottenham Boss Mauricio Pochettino Needs to Achieve on US Tour

Sam Rooke@@SamRooke89Featured ColumnistJuly 16, 2014

FILE - In this Sunday, May 11, 2014, file photo, Southampton's manager Mauricio Pochettino watches his team play against Manchester United during their English Premier League soccer match at St Mary's stadium, Southampton, England.  Tottenham has hired Mauricio Pochettino as the club's new manager on a five-year contract, with the former Argentina defender making the move from fellow Premier League side Southampton. (AP Photo/Sang Tan, File)
Sang Tan/Associated Press

As he embarks on a three-match tour of North America, Mauricio Pochettino faces a potentially crucial period of his early Tottenham tenure.

With matches against Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire and Toronto FC, Pochettino has the opportunity to begin to implement his style against more forgiving opposition than he is likely to find in the Premier League.

Despite the absence of Spurs' World Cup stars, Pochettino must use this tour to determine which members of the squad are not part of his plans, identify which youth players are ready to join the first team, rehabilitate the careers of Spurs' two biggest signings and begin to teach his particular style of football to a group of players that have not played with any identifiable style for quite some time.

Listen to the music

Pochettino is a widely reported devotee of Marcelo Bielsa and his attractive yet physically demanding pressing game. The former Chile, Argentina and Athletic Bilbao boss instructed Pochettino as a player at Newell's Old Boys, and that is reflected in his Southampton and Espanyol sides. Southampton in particular drew great praise for their style last season, and despite losing both games to Tottenham, they were the better side each time.

At Spurs, he faces a slightly different challenge in managing some bigger egos. While his exiling of Dani Osvaldo suggests he will not suffer dissent, he will need to harness that strength of will on a more regular basis at Tottenham. It is crucial that he use this tour to convince the core group of players that his way is effective and will lead to great success. 

Pochettino now manages a group of players that are, broadly, the most talented that he has ever had at his disposal. Tottenham lacked any kind of identity last season and were often without any kind of plan on the pitch. Pochettino's teams are aggressive and direct, and his players must sacrifice themselves to achieve his vision.

If they buy in to his demanding style of play, they will undoubtedly progress beyond the wandering sixth place achieved last season.

On the chopping block

So far, the only players to depart Tottenham since the appointment of Pochettino have been Jake Livermore (an £8 million sale to Hull City) and Heurelho Gomes (a free transfer to Watford). Beyond these two, though, there are likely other players who can seal their fates over the next 10 days.

Spurs' defence is likely to be marked by what they can achieve in the transfer window, but it is in midfield that Pochettino must take some hard decisions. There are eight full international central midfielders in Spurs' squad. Some will have to go. Gylfi Sigurdsson is likely to be the first to be sold, and according to Daily Star, Spurs have already accepted an £8 million bid from Crystal Palace for the midfielder.

Lewis Holtby must take the opportunity to impress his new boss. Having failed to secure a first-team place under both Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, Holtby has seemed a likely candidate for departure, but the appointment of Pochettino could spark a renaissance in his fortunes.

An endlessly energetic player, Holtby is well suited to the high-speed, high-pressing game that Pochettino favours. He is also an intelligent, coachable player who can play in different roles through midfield. His flexibility and his attitude make him a likely beneficiary of Pochettino's clean slate.

Iago Falque, who occasionally shone during his Rayo Vallecano loan last season, has the chance to demand a place in Pochettino's squad. An attacking midfielder generally more comfortable in wide areas, he is confident, aggressive and skillful. He is well suited to Pochettino's game and, with a strong showing, could find a surprise place in the squad.

Tottenham's English wingers could both find themselves out in the cold after this tour. Neither Andros Townsend nor Aaron Lennon are particularly well suited to Pochettino's style, and both must impress on this tour to retain their places.

Lennon is a hard worker in defence, but his lack of output in his primary role has long been a cause for concern. Townsend is undoubtedly talented, but his frustrating decision-making could cost him his place. If he can be coached, he could be a fine player, and he is only 23, but he must make an impact on this tour.

Young men of England

Pochettino's proclivity for promoting young players is well known. Three matches in the heat of the North American summer will see plenty of rotation, and Spurs' young hopefuls will get their chance to show the new boss what they can do. 

Last season, Nabil Bentaleb and Harry Kane made the leap from the youth teams, and Tom Carroll has long been "one to watch." Carroll must seize the opportunity of playing for a new manager to finally make the transition to first-team player.

Spurs' lack of depth in defence suggests that Milos Veljkovic is the most likely of the lesser-known players to make an impact on the tour.

Marquee men

Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado both joined Tottenham to much fanfare last summer, but neither was able to live up to the hype.

Soldado scored on his debut but only managed 10 more goals while Lamela was mishandled throughout the season and eventually succumbed to a back injury. Both players do not lack quality, and both are well suited to Pochettino's preferred formation.

Soldado showed a willingness to chase and press under Villas-Boas, and that will not have escaped Pochettino's attention. Lamela, most comfortable when drifting in from wide areas, should also benefit from the change in style.

If they are to progress in their second seasons in England, a strong showing in pre-season would be ideal.


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