Pochettino’s greatness the only reason behind Spurs’ miracle night
A masterful half-time team talk from a certain Argentine inspired an English club to rise from the ashes and engrave their name on Dutch soil. Tottenham Hotspur lived one of the greatest nights in the club’s history when Lucas Moura’s masterclass stamped Mauricio Pochettino’s brilliance on Wednesday night.
No one would have believed. No one would have predicted. No one would have given them a chance. And yet it happened. At the end of 96 minutes at the Johan Cruyff Arena, Lucas Moura had become a deity in the eyes of every Tottenham supporter. The saviour who rose from his own disappointments in the first half to score a historical hattrick and seal his team’s place in the UEFA Champions League final for the first time ever. However, on the same night amidst all the jubilations, Mauricio Pochettino attained a different stature.
The Argentine is unlike any manager of the modern age. His methods are somewhere in between, and quite frankly, not straightforward to understand. Player power found its damaging roots to the Spurs side as well, but Pochettino somehow managed to weed it out. Unhappy stars like Toby Alderweireld and Moussa Sissoko, who were inching towards a move away at the start of the season, suddenly looked more than apart and more than happy to remain grounded.
The well-documented and much-debated stadium issues could have been a viable excuse this term for the 47-year-old to work around with. Repeated delays and a lack of clarity should have caused uncertainty and affected the mindset of the Spurs players away from the pitch. Playing away from home in home matches isn’t common, but Pochettino somehow had to cope with it for a second season running. But yet, that didn’t affect him.
The biggest of all adversities though has been Spurs’ failure to provide any signings to Pochettino in the last two transfer windows. Chairman Daniel Levy had invested huge sums of money into the ambitious new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium leaving the Argentine absolutely no money to work within the market. The rising competitiveness of the Premier League and the increasing demands of being in the so-called ‘Big Six’ would have affected anyone if the same faces kept turning out on the pitch one season after another.
That again hadn’t affected Pochettino’s Spurs. They’ve been as efficient as anyone, currently sitting in 4th place on the table with their position in the Champions League next season all but assured. The likes of Arsenal and Manchester United, who got a fair few new faces to add to their dressing room, are below Spurs and heading for the Europa League next term.
The injury to the talismanic Harry Kane in the quarterfinal came as another major blow to his team, but like on so many occasions, Pochettino fought on. Shuffling around the players and tinkering with his tactics, the Argentine’s side beat a world-class Manchester City team to make their way into the semifinals.
AFC Ajax, who had already beaten giants like Real Madrid and Juventus weren’t going to be easy either and they proved it. Two-nil down at half-time, three-nil down on aggregate, and playing away in a UEFA Champions League final isn’t an easy problem to solve. But, isn’t that what Pochettino does?
The 15-minute half-time team talk that he delivered to those 11 Spurs players were probably the greatest 15-minutes in all of Tottenham Hotspur history. Fired up and hungry to defy even the impossible, the same group of players who were schooled by the Ajax youngsters in the first half turned into a band of enlightened stars who suddenly, could do no wrong.
The night then belonged to them. An injury-time winner from Lucas Moura was enough to silence Amsterdam and instill belief in the English side. Football is a game of emotion and that was displayed at will on the pitch. Tears gushed through each of their eyes, but even more so, through Pochettino’s. His story is more deserving of recognition than anything this grand European football season. His story is one of fighting against all odds. His story is one for the history books.
Words: Chandan Pandey