Mauricio Pochettino is underperforming as Tottenham manager

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Football News

Familiarity breeds contempt. The familiarity with which Spurs crumbled to a 2-1 home defeat to Stoke City on Sunday is certainly causing anger on the Tottenham terraces, and as much as the players are underperforming so is the manager, Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino joined Tottenham in the summer from Southampton. His Saints team was known for their high pressing, high tempo game however at White Hart Lane the fans have seem the slow and often calamitous displays that marked the end of Andre Villas-Boas era.

Alarmingly for the Lilywhite faithful, there are some striking similarities between the Portuguese and Argentine head coaches. A devotion to 4-2-3-1, a lack of a deep lying playmaker, isolated, non-scoring strikers, lack of width, misfiring summer signings and a Europa League campaign getting in the way.

Same mistakes

Villas-Boas ultimately paid the price as Tottenham's defence went to pieces and Pochettino will need to be careful he does not go the same why. While there is a general willingness to give the former Espanyol player and manager time to rectify the mistakes of the past, the lack of performance from individuals and the collective is troublesome.

When Pochettino had the gaul to blame the small size of the White Hart Lane pitch Spurs fans were justified to point at his tactics. Tottenham's pitch has always been on the small side, and the best period over the last decade was when Harry Redknapp was in charge using wingers and pace.

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Pochettino's use of inverted-wingers and a sole striker requires a slower tempo and more technical, intricate play. Obviously this clashes with a pitch that could be easily crowded when numbers are concentrated centrally.

The side looks disjointed, with the full backs expected to cover the length of their flanks both defensively and offensively, while given no cover from those ahead of them. The two central midfielders do not take responsibility for covering the defence nor instigating attacking moves, while the three ahead of them drift inside far too much, encroach each other's space and fail to link up with the lone striker, who is reluctant to abandon his central position because no one from midfield will fill that position.

Pochettino has tried Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho, Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend and Harry Kane in the three positions behind the striker, and only Kane and Chadli have performed to another like the required level. Even then there are question marks over whether they are really suited to those positions.

The attacking trio are caught between being forwards and being midfielders, neither helping out their team mates defensively nor fully committing to getting forward and pressing all the way up the pitch.

Rotate and rotate

While Pochettino sticks with almost religious fervour to his preferred formation, the same cannot be said about his player selection. While the Europa League and League cup offer chances to give fringe squad members a chance to maintain fitness and prove their worth, making wholesale changes from game to game impacts on consistency. Kane may excel in Europe but when he has different players around him in the league then it becomes much harder for the striker to carry his goalscoring form over.

Also, it would be one thing if Pochettino had a league XI and a cup XI, but the Argentine continues to experiment with centre back pairings, as well as the attacking midfield trio. Federico Fazio started with Younes Kaboul on Sunday, while Jan Vertonghen, generally regarded as Tottenham's best defender, sat on the bench. While 'Poch' may have been right to give Vertonghen's ego a bit of a dent to start with, the continuing absence of the Belgium from Tottenham's best eleven is self-defeating.

Tottenham's squad needs thinning out, especially in central midfield, but after nearly four months in charge Pochettino should know who he likes and he does not and start working with the core squad that he will use beyond this season. Constantly giving players half chances helps no one.

Performance over result

The usual aim for any Tottenham manager is the top four and the Champions League. For once, Pochettino seems unencumbered by this expectation. Fans and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy appear willing to grant time to the manager to build a team for once.

However, while results are not crucial some semblance of performance is. There is no progression from Tottenham since the 4-0 win over a lacklustre QPR side back in August.

Despite calling for his side to improve their mentality, none of the work on the training pitch is filtering through to match day. At least AVB's changes in training helped stop Spurs conceding late goals. Pochettino's side, on the other hand, continues to be littered with individual errors.

There are some simple changes Pochettino can make, such as playing two strikers at home to the majority of sides, playing wingers on their natural flanks, showing some consistency in player selection and playing players on form, not reputation. Let's be honest, things cannot get much worse.

Tottenham Hotspur
Mauricio Pochettino

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