The grass might be starting to look greener elsewhere for Pochettino

Tottenham lack the spending power to get the better teams of the truly big teams like Manchester City… the grass might be starting to look greener elsewhere for Mauricio Pochettino

  • Manchester City beat Tottenham 1-0 at Wembley on Monday evening 
  • Riyad Mahrez scored the only goal of the game shortly into the first half 
  • The pitch at ‘The Home of Football’ been ravaged by the weekend’s NFL game
  • Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino cut a frustrated figure on the touchline 

No danger of the grass growing beneath your feet when the pitch has been stomped bare.

And yet the restlessness continues, for Mauricio Pochettino, a man who increasingly looks as though he might have stood in the same spot for too long.

If he sounded like a conflicted man in his pre-match briefing on Friday, a man aching for more and better, then he looked one here.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino looks on during his side's defeat to Manchester City

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino looks on during his side’s defeat to Manchester City

Spurs players look dejected after going behind in Monday's Premier League encounter

Spurs players look dejected after going behind in Monday’s Premier League encounter

Waves, screams, calf raises, pouts, punches to thin air – he went through all the fidgets of his routine. Usually does, so no great change there. Except this time we knew there was something bubbling inside because he has already told us there is.

His worst feeling in four years at the club, was how he put it last week. The cause was the stadium delay and all that goes with it, from these never-ending trips to Wembley and right up to the budget constriction that means Tottenham do not ‘prioritise’ winning quite like, say, Manchester City.

Jolting sentiments, yes. But who could blame him for being honest? Who, aside from those of the staunchest Tottenham affiliations, would begrudge him the occasional whine about having to fight with one arm behind his back year in and year out? The wonder is that he has landed so many big blows – fifth, third, second and third-placed finishes. It’s magnificent when balanced against balanced books.

But that’s the frustration. Premier League football isn’t fought with balanced books. Look at City – their match-winner here cost £60m in a summer when Spurs didn’t spend a penny.

Riyad Mahrez wheels away in celebration after breaking the deadlock in the sixth minute

Riyad Mahrez wheels away in celebration after breaking the deadlock in the sixth minute

When will Tottenham be in a position to prioritise that kind of squad development? The only thing for certain is that the money won’t automatically become available once they have their own home, whenever that may be. These things need to be paid off and the brilliance of Tottenham is that they are achieving on what is a sensible and incredibly successful model – they have off-field folk, like Levy, who have played fantastically well.

But is entirely logical to wonder when the great builder on the pitch will have had enough and decide that he wants the same advantages enjoyed by the other managers. The worry for Spurs is that he is plainly good enough to go almost anywhere – Manchester United, Real Madrid? In time and the right circumstances they will surely come knocking.

Whenever that might be, Daniel Levy will need to hope that Pochettino can block from his memory times like these, when he stood next to a pitch ravaged by the weekend’s NFL game. The league’s logo was clear as day in the centre circle, the pitch was scarred brown in three distinct stripes – one for each of the NFL touchlines that sit narrower than on a football pitch and one down the middle. A right mess, just like the delays affecting the build of Tottenham’s new stadium.

The whole saga, from the summer, when the moving deadline was missed, until now, has left Tottenham feeling like couch hoppers, when they ought to be in a grand home of their own. Uncomfortable, out of place, minding the cracks in the floor, or in this case the divots. So many touches went out of touch in the first half, alone.

Kieran Trippier shows his frustration as City celebrate taking the lead at Wembley 

Kieran Trippier shows his frustration as City celebrate taking the lead at Wembley 

There was also the sight on separate occasions of Moussa Sissoko and Erik Lamela chasing a bouncing, bobbling ball as if it was a cheese cascading down a hill. No wonder City’s first goal came from an Ederson punt downfield; no wonder Tottenham tried to ape them.

But that is the problem. For all Tottenham’s brilliance under Pochettino, they have never quite been able to get the better of the truly big teams. Indeed, Since Pochettino took charge in 2014, only Arsenal have accumulated fewer points in games between the established top-six sides than the 54 earned by Spurs.

The difference, quite blatantly, is spending power. Without it, Pochettino has been exceptional; with it, he would surely be a title winner. And so maybe the time will come when he does decide he has done all he can. It is not preposterous suggestion, nor an insulting one when you consider it could be years before Spurs can spend big and he has already been there for four.

Gary Neville wasn’t alone on Monday night in raising the thought.

Pochettino reacts after watching his side pass up a big chance to equalise in the second half

Pochettino reacts after watching his side pass up a big chance to equalise in the second half

‘He has always managed things well and pushed things away,’ Neville said on Sky Sports. ‘They are not spending the money nowhere near the other top clubs.

‘Pochettino is a fantastic manager but he has always wanted to go the top, top European clubs and it feels to me as though he has gone as far as he can with Tottenham.’

Maybe he has, maybe he has not. More credit to him that he hasn’t turned his frustration into something abrasive with those who employ him – he genuinely seems to appreciate that they have a way of running the club and that it works.

But he is ambitious. Extremely so. And for that reason, there will always be a risk that stood on a muddy touchline, the grass might look greener elsewhere.

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