Spurs: Mauricio Pochettino's unique take on 'non-negotiables'

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Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

When Mauricio Pochettino arrived in England as the new Southampton manager in 2013, he was a relatively unknown quantity.

The former PSG player, who also received 22 caps for Argentina, had made a promising start to life as a manager at Espanyol, but taking charge of a Premier League side was a different proposition altogether. 

Indeed, many believed that his predecessor at the South Coast club, Martin Adkins, had been harshly dismissed from his position. Was Pochettino really the right man to guide the Saints up the table?

It did not take long for him to prove his doubters wrong. In his first full season at the helm, Pochettino led Southampton to an eighth-placed finish - their joint-highest league position in the Premier League era at the time.

His fine work did not go unnoticed. Ahead of the 2014/15 season, Tottenham made their move for the talented coach. It would turn out to be a match made in heaven.

In his five full campaigns at the club, Pochettino managed to help Spurs finish inside the top four on four occasions. Before long, the North London outfit were making a splash in Europe as well.

In 2019, Tottenham defied the odds to progress through to the Champions League final. They fell short in the showpiece event, losing 2-0 to Liverpool, but it had been a remarkable journey for Pochettino and his side.

Pochettino's time in England came to an end in November 2019, but his reputation had certainly been enhanced during his time in the country. 

Now he is back at PSG, coaching the team that he used to play for.

Before taking that role, he had the chance to sit down with Jake Humphrey and Damian Hughes on the High Performance Podcast to talk about his career to date.

In previous podcasts, guests such as Eddie Jones and Ant Middleton have been asked about their three non-negotiables - principles that they will always stand by.

The same question was put to Pochettino, however, the 49-year-old had a slightly different take, stressing the need to be flexible as a coach.

He said: "Right, to be honest, I was changing. First day I said to myself, 'I know I'm never going to negotiate, I'm going to be inflexible.' But after, with time I was, I tried to, I think cross the line to the opposite.

"You start to feel that you need to negotiate and you need to be flexible, like in the game, you need to be flexible. And I think now I am more in this another side that 'why not to negotiate?'

"I think you can deal better with the problems, and I think that is why with no experience I was worse manager that I am today."

Mauricio Pochettino celebrates beating Ajax

Pochettino's changing views on non-negotiables reflects his time at Spurs. When he arrived at the club, he appeared to take a firm stance with regards to the playing squad, selling the likes of Roberto Soldado, Andros Townsend and Paulinho in the early stages of his tenure.

That approach softened over time, though, and by his final season, his well-established playing philosophy of pressing high to win the ball in dangerous areas had begun to fade as well.

In many ways, that was an inevitable consequence of the scenario Pochettino found himself in.

With Daniel Levy failing to make any signings for two straight transfer windows, and the young players he brought through developing into footballing superstars, Pochettino didn't have much choice but to deal with the talent at his disposal - as well as any elevated egos. A far cry from the my-way-or-high-way vibe of his first few seasons in charge. 

Despite not seeming to get his way on the transfer front, Pochettino coped admirably, using his newly-found flexible mindset to almost lead his men to European glory in his final full season.

What an ending that would have been for a manager whose Spurs journey was dictated as much by circumstance as his own beliefs and ability. 

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