Opinion: Tottenham Hotspur under Mauricio Pochettino: A Look Back

Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed their most successful period in recent history under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine led Spurs to four consecutive top-four finishes in the Premier League, including a memorable run to the Champions League final in 2019 and built a team that played an attractive brand of football.

During his five-year tenure, Pochettino made several astute signings and built a squad that was capable of challenging for major honours. The likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Christian Eriksen became household names under his tutelage, while the emergence of academy graduates such as Harry Winks and Kyle Walker-Peters added to the feel-good factor at the club of promoting from within.

However, despite all the progress made during his reign, there was one question that remained unanswered: which was the best Tottenham side under Pochettino? We’ve take a closer look at some of the teams that he assembled and try to determine which one was the most impressive.

Early Pochettino Years

Pochettino took over Tottenham Hotspur in May 2014 from Southampton to replace Tim Sherwood, and he quickly set about implementing his high-pressing, possession-based style of play. In his full first season in charge, he led Spurs to a fifth-place finish in the Premier League, narrowly missing out on a Champions League spot. Despite this, there were signs of promise, and Pochettino had laid the foundations for a successful future at the club.

2014-2015 Season

In his first season, Pochettino inherited a squad that had underperformed in the previous campaign. He quickly set about making changes, bringing in new players and implementing his style of play. The likes of Harry Kane, Ryan Mason, and Kyle Walker emerged as key players under Pochettino, and the team began to play with a new-found intensity and purpose.

Spurs finished the season with 64 points, just six points behind fourth-placed Manchester United. They also reached the final of the League Cup, where they were beaten 2-0 by Chelsea. It was a promising start to Pochettino’s tenure, and there was a sense that Tottenham could be on the cusp of something special.

2015-2016 Season

The following season, Pochettino continued to build on the foundations he had laid in his first year. Tottenham played some scintillating football, with Kane leading the line and Dele Alli emerging as a star in midfield. The team’s high-pressing style of play was a joy to watch, and they were a match for anyone on their day.

Spurs finished the season in third place, their highest league finish since 1990. They also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they were beaten by Crystal Palace. It was a hugely successful season for Pochettino and his team with a return to European football’s most prestigious club competition.

The Golden Season

2016-2017 Season

Mousa Dembele
(Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

The 2016-2017 season was undoubtedly Tottenham Hotspur’s best season under Mauricio Pochettino. They finished the season in second place, their highest Premier League finish since 1963. Tottenham amassed an impressive 86 points, seven points behind champions Chelsea. They also boasted the best defensive record in the league, conceding only 26 goals in 38 games.

One of the key factors in Tottenham’s success that season was their home form. They won 17 of their 19 home games, drawing the other two. Their home form meant that they accumulated 53 of their 86 points at White Hart Lane – their last campaign at their spiritual home.

Another factor in Tottenham’s success was their attacking prowess. Tottenham scored 86 goals that season, which was the second-highest in the league. Harry Kane was the team’s top scorer, bagging 29 goals in 30 appearances. Dele Alli also had a standout season, scoring 18 goals and providing seven assists.

Tottenham’s success that season was also due to the performances of their backline. The centre-back pairing of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen was rock solid, while full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose provided attacking impetus down the flanks. The team was also well-drilled in their defensive duties, with the midfield trio of Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele, and Eric Dier providing protection for the backline, while the likes of Christian Eriksen pulled the strings in the final third.

Overall, the 2016-2017 season was a golden season for Tottenham Hotspur under Pochettino. They played some of the most exciting football in the league, were defensively solid, and had a potent attack. It was a season that Tottenham fans will remember for years to come.

Champions League Run

One of the highlights of Pochettino’s tenure at Tottenham was the team’s incredible run to the Champions League final in the 2018-2019 season. The team had a difficult group stage, finishing second to Barcelona, but they managed to beat Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, and Ajax in the knockout stages to reach the final.

2018-2019 Season

Tottenham’s run to the final was nothing short of remarkable. They started the knockout stages with a tough tie against Borussia Dortmund, but they managed to win both legs of the tie convincingly, scoring a total of 4 goals and keeping clean sheets in both matches.

The quarter-finals saw Tottenham drawn against Manchester City, who were one of the favourites to win the competition. The two teams played out an incredible first leg at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Spurs winning 1-0 thanks to a Son Heung-min goal. The second leg was even more dramatic, with City winning 4-3 on the night, but Tottenham progressed to the semi-finals on away goals.

The semi-finals saw Tottenham face Ajax, who had already knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus in the previous rounds. Tottenham lost the first leg 1-0 in Amsterdam, and they looked to be heading out of the competition when they went 2-0 down in the second leg in London. However, Lucas Moura scored a second-half hat-trick to send Tottenham through to the final on away goals.

The final itself was a disappointing affair for Tottenham, as they were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool. However, the run to the final was a testament to Pochettino’s tactical nous and the team’s never-say-die attitude.

Final Seasons and Departure

2019-2020 Season

Champions League
(Photo by Kristian Skeie – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

After reaching the Champions League final in the previous season, Tottenham Hotspur struggled to maintain their form in the 2019-2020 season. They were knocked out of the League Cup by League Two side Colchester United and were eliminated from the FA Cup by Norwich City.

In the Premier League, Spurs were inconsistent and failed to secure a top-four finish. They finished in sixth place, 13 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. However, they did manage to secure a Europa League spot for the following season.

One of the few highlights of the season was their 2-0 win over Manchester City in February 2020. Steven Bergwijn scored on his debut and Son Heung-min added a second goal to secure the win.

2020-2021 Season

Jose Mourinho
Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

The 2020-2021 season was a difficult one for Tottenham Hotspur. They started the season strongly, winning their first three Premier League games, but their form soon dipped. They were knocked out of the League Cup by London rivals Chelsea and were eliminated from the FA Cup by Everton.

In the Premier League, Spurs were inconsistent and struggled to score goals. They finished in seventh place, again securing a Europa League spot for the following season.

Despite the disappointing season, Harry Kane had a standout year. He won the Premier League Golden Boot and also provided the most assists in the league. He was named the Premier League Player of the Season for his performances.

However, the season ended in disappointment for Tottenham Hotspur fans after Pochettino was sacked in November 2020 after a poor run of results. He was replaced by Jose Mourinho which also proved to be an ill-fated move by the club as they looked for a quick fix to try to win trophies.

What Next?

Pochettino warned that Spurs would have to go through a painful rebuild just a matter of months before his dismissal if they were to evolve (Evening Standard) – something which has proved to be very true and has yet to be achieved as Daniel Levy looks to find yet another head coach following the exit of Antonio Conte.

Some fans have called for the Argentine to return to the club to resume his project – however, Tottenham could instead be looking for the ‘next Pochettino’ to take the club in yet another direction.

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