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Is Jose Mourinho the right man to replace Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham?

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at whether Tottenham Hotspur were right to sack Mauricio Pochettino and whether Jose Mourinho is the correct choice to replace him.

Tottenham Hotspur shocked the football world on Tuesday night when they confirmed the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, and quickly followed that up with a similarly seismic announcement that Jose Mourinho would replace the Argentine in the dugout.

The brutal sacking came less than six months after Pochettino led Spurs to their first ever Champions League final - arguably the greatest achievement in the club's history and certainly their best moment since Bill Nicholson led them to the first 20th century double in English football 58 years ago.

Indeed, comparisons with that legendary team of the early 1960s have been commonplace throughout Pochettino's five-and-a-half years at the helm, with the former Southampton boss establishing himself as Tottenham's best since Nicholson.

The Pochettino era is now over, though, and here Sports Mole looks at whether the ambitious and polarising move from Daniel Levy will work out for the North Londoners.



Were Spurs right to sack Pochettino?

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino reacts on November 9, 2019© Reuters

Few sackings have been quite as cut-throat as this one, and the answer as to whether Spurs were right to dispense with one of their greatest ever managers will only be revealed in the course of time.

The reason why the decision has been so divisive ultimately boils down to differing measures of success - there are those who argue that Pochettino should have won more silverware with the players at his disposal, and others who counteract that argument by pointing out that Pochettino built that team and had shown significant progress in all areas other than the trophy cabinet.

There is truth in both arguments; Spurs boast one of the world's best centre-forwards in Harry Kane, a World Cup-winning goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris, the first-choice centre-back pairing for the top-ranked international side in the world and a plethora of creative midfielders - that is a spine which should have won trophies.

Of the current squad, Pochettino inherited Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Lloris and Kane when he took over, at least five of whom have gone on to play major roles in his tenure. The Argentine did not exactly build his side from scratch, then, but he undoubtedly made those players better.

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their fifth goal on October 22, 2019© Reuters

Kane is the most obvious example of that. The England skipper had played just 26 first-team games and scored only five goals for the club prior to Pochettino's arrival, but since then he has struck 169 times in 242 appearances and ended every year of the Pochettino era as the club's top scorer.

Despite inheriting that talented core of players, Pochettino also needed to trim a bloated squad which included the likes of Roberto Soldado, Younes Kaboul and Emmanuel Adebayor.

While there is a lack of silverware with which to mark Tottenham's progress since that 2013-14 campaign under Tim Sherwood, Tottenham's league positions do speak volumes - they only finished in the top four twice in 24 seasons before Pochettino took over, whereas they have claimed a Champions League spot in four of five years under the Argentine, the only exception being his first term.

There have been a couple of title challenges thrown into the mix, including the club's highest league finish since 1963, and on the European stage they evolved from Europa League also-rans to Champions League finalists.

Lucas Moura celebrates his hat-trick goal as Tottenham Hotspur complete their comeback win against Ajax on May 8, 2019© Reuters

There is no doubt that Pochettino has left a legacy in North London, then, but the arguments for him to leave have grown stronger throughout 2019 and the inescapable truth is that Spurs have been far short of the expected standard for a long time now - a fact partially obscured by that unforgettable run to the Champions League final.

Spurs have only won three of their last 15 league games and, across all competitions throughout the calendar year, have lost as many games as they have won - 19.

The 2019-20 campaign alone is only 17 games old but has already seen a host of moments which could be classed among the lowest of Pochettino's reign - a 7-2 humiliation at home to Bayern Munich, being knocked out of the EFL Cup by League Two Colchester United, losing 3-0 at Brighton & Hove Albion and 1-0 at home to Newcastle United and throwing away two-goal leads to draw at both Arsenal and Olympiacos.

Taken in isolation, that form is undoubtedly enough for a manager to be sacked in modern-day football, although Pochettino may feel that he had built enough credit to be given time to turn things around - something he made a foreboding plea for during his final press conference as manager.

However, there is also a strong case to be made that the Argentine had taken Spurs as far as he could - something backed up by their form since reaching the zenith of a Champions League final - and that a fresh approach was needed to take the club on to the next level.



Is Mourinho the man to bring silverware to Spurs?

Jose Mourinho has a crafty wink on December 1, 2018© Reuters

If reaching the next level means beginning to win trophies then it is hard to argue with the logic behind Mourinho's appointment. After all, this is a man who has won 25 pieces of silverware during his illustrious career, including every trophy in English football and two Champions League crowns.

The Portuguese's reputation has been on the slide since 2015, though, with his playing style criticised for being outdated and unambitious in an era where Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are leading the way with exciting, high-tempo and most importantly winning football.

The vast majority of Mourinho's past successes have been built on a strong defence first and foremost - which is arguably what Spurs need most right now - but the club has a reputation for demanding attacking football, and they have become accustomed to that under Pochettino.

The tools are certainly there for Mourinho to achieve that - man-for-man Spurs still boast one of the best teams in England - but it is how he chooses to utilise them which could define his Tottenham reign. The football played during his Manchester United spell will not enthuse the Tottenham crowd anywhere near as much as Pochettino's style did, even if it does prove to be more effective.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho pictured in August 2018© Reuters

Suggestions that Mourinho has struggled to keep pace with the change in football appear to be reflected in his win percentage which, with the exception of his spell at Real Madrid, has steadily decreased throughout this career at the top level - 71.7% with Porto, 67% with Chelsea, 62% with Inter Milan, 58.8% in his second Chelsea spell and 58.3% at Manchester United.

Of course, those figures do need to be kept in perspective - only Sir Alex Ferguson has a better win percentage as United boss, for example - but all of Mourinho's clubs since he left Uniao de Leiria in January 2002 have gone into the vast majority of their matches as major favourites, which is not necessarily the case with Spurs.

One thing is for certain, a change in fortunes needs to come sooner rather than later. Tottenham sit 14th in the Premier League table after 12 games, already 11 points adrift of the top four and a whopping 20 points behind top spot - a target Mourinho has hinted at aiming for during his tenure.

There will be no bedding-in period either; Spurs face a London derby against West Ham United just three days after Mourinho's appointment, while matches against former clubs Manchester United and Chelsea are also to come before Christmas, not to mention a Champions League trip to Bayern Munich.



Can Mourinho get the players on side?

Christian Eriksen in action for Spurs on October 5, 2019© Reuters

There were hints that all was not well at Spurs even before the poor form began on the pitch. Pochettino himself poured doubt over his own future by admitting he might walk away if they won the Champions League, while he was also openly critical of the club's transfer activity.

Reports suggest that the Argentine lost a chunk of the dressing room during his final months in charge, although his departure could raise doubts over the futures of those loyal to him - a category captain Lloris and striker Kane fall into.

During his most successful years, Mourinho's relationship with his players was legendary - John Terry and Frank Lampard only have good things to say about their former boss, while Marco Materazzi was in tears after learning Mourinho would be leaving Inter Milan.

However, in addition to alienating himself from the media, who used to lap up every word he said from the moment he proclaimed himself the 'Special One', Mourinho's relationship with his players appears to have deteriorated since his latter days at Real Madrid. Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Paul Pogba are among the high-profile names understood to have fallen out with him.

Mourinho said earlier this season that Tottenham's best business was keeping hold of certain players, and he must now convince the Pochettino loyalists that the future will be even brighter under him, in addition to using the fresh start as a negotiation tool for those who pushed for an exit during the summer.

Jan Vertonghen in action for Spurs on October 19, 2019© Reuters

Toby Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Eriksen are all out of contract next summer and can open talks with foreign teams over a free transfer as early as January, so they must be Mourinho's priority given their importance to the team when on top form.

Alderweireld and Vertonghen may now both be the wrong side of 30, but they and Davinson Sanchez appear to be solid options from which Mourinho can build from the back, while it is no coincidence that Tottenham's form has tailed off at the same time as that of chief playmaker Eriksen.

Should that key trio leave then it raises questions as to who will replace them. Mourinho has traditionally been backed with big money during transfer windows, but that will not be the case as much under the notoriously frugal Levy.

Mourinho has signed 14 players for more than £30m during his managerial career, whereas Spurs have spent that much on a single player just three times in their entire history. Pogba alone cost more than Son Heung-min, Eriksen, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Lloris, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Rose, Harry Winks and Kane combined.

Daniel Levy pictured in the Spurs stands on December 23, 2019© Reuters

The latter two of those came through the ranks at Spurs, and one of the more eye-catching elements of the Mourinho announcement was his comment that the quality in the club's academy was part of the reason behind him taking the job.

The three-time Premier League winner has often been criticised for failing to bring youngsters through the ranks, instead preferring to sign big-name players, which can in some part be attributed to the level of demand at the clubs he has been employed by.

Spurs are arguably the lowest-profile club Mourinho has managed since Porto, but even there he largely relied on the team he inherited to win the 2004 Champions League. There have, of course, been plenty of academy products who have made their debuts under Mourinho, but only a very small proportion of them have gone on to become important members of the team during his reign.

With the likes of Kyle Walker-Peters, Oliver Skipp and Troy Parrott beginning to break into the first team, Tottenham fans will hope that such homegrown talent will still be given a chance to shine under Mourinho.

The presence of Levy to tighten the pursestrings may force Mourinho into promoting youth more effectively than he has in the past, although the very decision to appoint Mourinho ahead of the likes of Erik ten Hag, Eddie Howe or Julian Nagelsmann suggests that the Spurs supremo is ready to go in a different direction in order to reach the next level.

Mourinho is the highest profile and most expensive manager Spurs have ever had and undoubtedly represents a big risk on the club's part but, after more than 11 years without a trophy, it could prove to be a risk worth taking if the new man in the hotseat does what he has done at every previous club he has managed: win.

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Is Jose Mourinho the right man to replace Mauricio Pochettino?

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No, Pochettino should not have been sacked!
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Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino pictured on May 4, 2019
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool16151040142646
2Leicester CityLeicester16122239102938
3Manchester CityMan City16102444192532
4Chelsea169253124729
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd166642519624
6Wolverhampton WanderersWolves165922319424
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs166553023723
8Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd165741916322
9Arsenal165742424022
10Crystal Palace166461418-422
11Newcastle UnitedNewcastle166461723-622
12Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton165472024-419
13Burnley165382129-818
14Everton165291928-917
15Bournemouth164481824-616
16West Ham UnitedWest Ham164481828-1016
17Aston Villa164392328-515
18Southampton164391835-1715
19Norwich CityNorwich1632111734-1711
20Watford16169930-219

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