LONDON – Mauricio Pochettino makes football teams better, he improves players and he calls for high-profile football, but is the Tottenham Hotspur coach a winner?
After his team had spurned the Spurs a place in next month's Carabao Cup final after losing on penalties to Chelsea in the semifinals of the second leg on Thursday – Spurs lost 1-1 at night to a 1-0 home win – it is a legitimate question to ask for the already high settled man on the wanted lists of Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The Argentine will argue that he holds the ruthless stance to bring great honors in Tottenham, or wherever his talents turn him next, but sometimes and often, when everything is at stake, he and his team fail ,
The great managers ̵
This was a game in which the Spurs were already breached without three key players, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min in international duty with South Korea at the Asian Cup. These three players scored 39 goals for Spurs in all competitions this season, so Pochettino could not afford to give up his older men.
Despite the holes in his team, Pochettino stuck to his policy of playing second-choice goalkeepers. Paulo Gazzaniga in this competition and left the club captain and World Cup winner keeper Hugo Lloris on the bench. A little detail maybe, but small details often make a big difference at the top of the top level, and Pochettino weakened his team by selecting Gazzaniga – whose mistake Chelsea gave the lead – to Lloris.
Ferguson, Guardiola and Mourinho have all used their backup goalkeepers in the big semi-final, even in the final, but could they have taken the same risk when so many other important figures are missing? This is controversial, but Pochettino has often treated reckless domestic cup competitions recklessly. Even success in the Carabao Cup or the FA Cup is not a priority, but if Tottenham does not have other cutlery in recent seasons, no one in the club can be picky. It all depends on which trophy is worth winning.
Under Pochettino, the Spurs lost two semi-finals of the FA Cup and now this semi-final of the Carabao Cup. They reached the final of the League Cup 2014/15, only to lose Mourinhos Chelsea at Wembley Stadium. He talked about being "so proud" of his players after his defeat at Stamford Bridge, but for Pochettino to get into the top league of coaches, he has to win something and make it sound like every trophy is important.
"We came here to try and win the game and to be in the final," said Pochettino. "Congratulations to Chelsea, I think they deserve it, but we made an incredible effort."
"This season we are not only fighting with our opponents with everything that has happened. That is not an excuse. That makes us stronger.
"We still have three more competitions, we have reached the semi-finals and have lost against Chelsea, one of the best teams in Europe, I can only be proud of the performance and the performance of how we competed."
Proud to be on a team losing a semi-final – another semi-final – is not the language of a manager winning the biggest trophies.
In Pochettino's defense there are mitigating circumstances of Tottenham.
The loss of so many key players at the same time would hurt any team, but it is well documented that Spurs did not contribute to their squad last summer, so they always had a tightrope enough electrical power to endure an English season , Fate has conspired at the worst time against the Spurs, but Pochettino should have worked harder for transfer funds last summer. Had he signed two or three new players before the start of the season, Spurs could not look so vulnerable now.
But as they are, they have dropped out of the Carabao Cup, hoping for a run for the Prime Minister. The League has been replaced by fear, drawn into a Champions League qualifier with Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United to become. A trip to Crystal Palace on Sunday in the fourth round of the FA Cup is the last thing Pochettino and his team need, and Kane and Alli will miss the round of 16 knockout round of the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham's Season looks like she could enlighten terribly next month.
Pochettino could have been tougher in his selection against Chelsea when he picked Lloris over Gazzaniga, and he should have been tougher with Daniel Levy, the chairman, the strings were tightened last summer. Spurs must take the next step by winning something, but Pochettino must travel the same way, and he has no options this season.