“They don’t have a manager, they have a head coach. I am a head coach.” said a pragmatic Mauricio Pochettino addressing whether Tottenham's shortcomings this season should lie with the manager or players.
With the difference between head coach and manager unclear, the Spurs boss continued "I think it’s very different. If you are the manager, you decide many things about the club. But if you are a head coach, your responsibility is to play better and try to improve the players and to get positive results.
“The head coach is not the same as the manager. If not, why am I not [called] the manager? I am the head coach. In Southampton, I was a manager. My responsibility was not only to coach the team. Here I am a head coach - a head coach is head of your department. My department is to train the team.”
Without saying so explicitly, Pochettino's revelations suggest a strong element of frustration as the Argentine boss deals with life under the restricted employment of Daniel Levy. And indeed, there is good reason to be frustrated working for a man seemingly more interested in business that football.
There lies the ultimate problem for Tottenham as a football club: Levy will not relinquish the control and trust a manager must be given by his chairmen. Sure, Spurs can boast a tidy net transfer profit for their last 10 seasons of business, but of what worth is that when the club has only finished in the top-4 twice during that period?
You can’t deny that Levy is able to sell players well above their market value – take Jake Livermore to Hull City for £8 million as a prime example. Likewise, Gareth Bale became the world’s most expensive player when he joined Real Madrid from Tottenham in the summer of 2013 for £85.3 million – a price tag that certainly seemed extortionate even for a player of his calibre. The point must be raised, however, that amidst all the ‘good deals’ Levy completes, he is unable to prevent Tottenham from continuing to sell their best players. Of course, this is largely due to the lack of Champions League football at White Hart Lane – a factor that Levy will argue should lie with the manager and players.
Daniel Levy would be permitted to make this point if he actually gave his manager and players and chance to settle and gel, but his chop-and-change tactics both in the staffroom on the pitch mean that Tottenham have little to no chance of progressing as a side. It is no use bringing in 5 – 10 players with undoubted talent every season if they are not given the time to develop under a consistent manager to oversee their growth.
Mauricio Pochettino’s poor start to life as Tottenham coach, therefore, is not because the Argentine is a bad manager, but rather a result of having to piece together a team that has thus far known little other than uncertainty at the club. This is made all the more difficult when constrained by a chairman unwilling to hand over the tools required to actively make the team Pochettino's own.
If Spurs are to move forward, therefore, Daniel Levy must trust in his managers and stop making decisions based around such foolhardy impatience.
It's certainly not too late to give Pochettino the breathing space needed, however. At present Spurs sit 10th in the Premier League table, yet just one win could propel them into the Champions League places. Fourth spot is very much up-for-grabs with the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal floundering, and if Levy is to alter his overbearing approach, Tottenham will still be fighting for that place come the end of the season. If not, Tottenham will be confined to yet another year of Europa League games on some second-rate terrestrial TV channel.