Football Features

How Spurs might line up under these four ‘candidates’ for Pochettino’s old job

By Ben Green

Published: 19:45, 19 November 2019

Despite guiding Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League final last season, Mauricio Pochettino has left the club.

The Argentine tactician had overseen a lacklustre start to the campaign, with Spurs currently 14th in the Premier League table and 11 points off fourth.

A tame 1-1 stalemate against Sheffield United prior to the international break meant further points falling by the wayside, and even more questions raised.

The prevailing view on the terraces was that Pochettino can yet turn things around, but patience had worn thin, particularly in a sport renowned for its fickleness.

And it has led to Pochettino being relieved of his duties by chairman Daniel Levy on Tuesday evening.

“We were extremely reluctant to make this change,” Levy said.

“It is not a decision the board has taken lightly, nor in haste. Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing.

“It falls on the board to make the difficult decisions – this one made more so given the many memorable moments we have had with Mauricio and his coaching staff – but we do so in the club’s best interests.”

Something that had been speculated for a while there are no shortage of candidates that could be lining up to succeed the South American, but who are they? And what qualities would they bring to revitalise north London?

Gareth Southgate

The managerial merry-go-round can be a cruel mistress, but the rumour mill has been working overtime these past few weeks, and recent reports suggest Spurs have identified the England manager as their No. 1 candidate to replace Pochettino.

With a strong contingent of England stars on the books in north London, Southgate could very well be the man to stop the rot and rejuvenate spirits.

The likes of Danny Rose, Harry Winks, Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli have all made exceptional progress under Southgate’s supervision.

There are also a number of up-and-coming young England players looking to break into the Spurs first-team, including Ryan Sessegnon, Kyle Walker-Peters and Oliver Skipp.

Under Southgate’s paternalistic tutelage these players could really come into their own and develop into future England internationals, while the above quintuple have already proven that they can work in a Southgate system, so an appointment here would make sense.

Having ditched his experimental 3-1-4-2 formation for England after the World Cup, Southgate has operated with a more fluid 4-3-3 system, one that is only slightly different to Pochettino’s current 4-2-3-1.

It would mean Son Heung-min would play a similar role to Marcus Rashford with England, as an inside forward on the left wing, while Lucas Moura would occupy the opposing flank in support of Kane.

The midfield trident would be a mix of industry and creativity, with Winks functioning as the metronome, Alli the attack minded No. 8 and Tanguy Ndombele the box-to-box engine.

Southgate may also look to bring in a number of key players he knows well in an effort to alleviate current deficiencies. The likes of Jack Butland and Nick Pope may be considered to replace the inconsistent Hugo Lloris, while James Maddison could come in for Christian Eriksen, and Tyrone Mings or Lewis Dunk, two options for Jan Vertonghen.

Eddie Howe

Howe is a manager en vogue at the minute. His shrewd development policy, eye-pleasing football and youthful energy form desirable traits that would make him very much hot property in the eyes of Levy.

Not only has Howe masterminded Bournemouth’s astronomical leap from League Two football to the promised land in just seven seasons – with a short stint at Burnley in between – he has also established the Cherries as a competent Premier League outfit.

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The South Coast side play slick, attacking football, a brand that would meet the criteria in north London, while Howe is another like Southgate who has shown a keen eye for nurturing and bedding in young players.

Howe has favoured the more traditional 4-4-2 this term which would make for an interesting formation at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It could mean trying to lure Callum Wilson away from Dean Court and have him partnering Kane up-top.

The prospect of a Kane-Wilson strikeforce is certainly a mouthwatering possibility, or he may look to revive Spurs’ interest in Joshua King and have the Norwegian ace dovetailing the England international in the final third.

However, working with those currently at Spurs’ disposal, Howe would likely deploy Son and Kane as his two-man attack, while Moussa Sissoko and Ndombele will make up his tenacious central midfield double-pivot.

He appears to favour traditional wingers so Lamela and Lucas would likely take up those wide berths, leaving the likes of Alli, Winks and Eriksen all in possible limbo.

Of course, he may want to accommodate the above trio and tinker with his system altogether, while Ryan Fraser – whose contract runs out in the summer – will possibly join on a free transfer at the end of the campaign to offer further reinforcement on the flanks.

Massimiliano Allegri 

A man whose name seems to consistently pop up whenever there is talk of a vacancy. The Italian coach has recently been linked with Arsenal but a move to the Gunners’ arch-rivals wouldn’t be entirely out of the question now that Pochettino’s gone.

Allegri is yet to manage outside of Italy but has reigned over two Serie A tycoons: Juventus and AC Milan. He would therefore come to north London with immense pedigree.

But, he is a coach almost diametrically at odds with the above candidate in Howe. Allegri can be viewed as more of a pragmatic tactician, leaning on the side of results over aesthetics.

For anyone of a Lilywhite persuasion that may seem a tad unsettling given the philosophy of Pochettino, but where Spurs have fallen short this season, discipline and structure, Allegri would bring with him in abundance.

He would make Spurs defensively formidable, while also being ferocious in the middle of the park. His preferred system, a 3-5-2, made the Old Lady one of the most difficult sides across the entire continent to break down. And so it goes, this is not a formation completely alien to Spurs.

Pochettino often dabbled in a 3-4-2-1 system, so half the job has already been done for Allegri. The Italian would deploy a compact centre-back trident of Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez and Vertonghen, looking to recreate his insatiable Juve backline of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.

Serge Aurier and Rose would function as complete wing-backs, while Winks would take the Andrea Pirlo-esque, deep-lying playmaker role, Sissoko the Arturo Vidal engine role, and Alli the advance Paul Pogba role.

The two-man attack would again consist of Kane and Son, looking to form a sort of traditional centre-forward-false nine partnership, he so often craved in Turin.

Jose Mourinho

Another man whose name rarely leaves the top job conversation. Mourinho would no doubt relish the opportunity to manage in the Premier League again and may be tempted by a move to Spurs.

What he lacked at Old Trafford, he would have copiously in the capital: centre-backs. Under the Portuguese’s marmite watch, he would transform Spurs from leaky to watertight, making them a well-disciplined side, a la Allegri, but perhaps not quite as fluid as his Italian counterpart.

Where Allegri has some wiggle room for the aesthetics to creep out, Mourinho winces at the sight of attraction trumping three points. He will make Spurs difficult to beat first and foremost, and the rest will come later.

Some Spurs fans will not be best pleased transitioning from a manager in Pochettino who built a reputation for development and attractive football, to one in Mourinho who will put results before anything else.

But, this is exactly why the former Chelsea boss has been so successful across his career. He has won championships in England, Portugal, Spain and Italy for a reason, and with the right investment, he could make Spurs one of the most well-oiled clubs on these shores.

However, given that he was continuously at loggerheads with Ed Woodward at Manchester United, Levy may not want to bring a potential fire right to his doorstep.