Tottenham Hotspur have been arguably the most consistent side in the Premier League over the last three years, and have been slightly unlucky not to have lifted the league perhaps due to their infamous injury record, here is how Mauricio Pochettino has overcome injury hurdles to make Spurs one of the most feared teams in the country.
Stage one: baptism of fire.
When Pochettino arrived at Tottenham Hotspur back in 2014, the Argentine had reason to be underwhelmed by the midfield tools at his disposal. The only seemingly viable options for him were Benjamin Stambouli (cheap and a lacklustre alternative to Morgan Schneiderlin), Paulinho (horrendously out of form), Etienne Capoue (bad-egg) and Mousa Dembele (injury-hit). With seemingly little faith in his senior midfield, Poch dipped into the Spurs under 21’s and plucked Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb from obscurity, building an exciting, hard-working and young midfield core in the transitioning Spurs side.
Stage two: reigniting the fire.
As Tottenham began their second season under the stewardship of Pochettino, the young, homegrown core that had been built last season had crumbled, with Bentaleb and Mason both suffering long term injuries that would rule them out of action for a number of months. After missing out on Victor Wanyama, Spurs were thread-bare in midfield. Make shift centre/right back (at the time) Eric Dier was thrown into the midfield in the traditional defensive midfield area alongside an injury-hit enigma named Mousa Dembele. The Belgian had been injury-hit and inconsistent during his first few years at White Hart Lane but quickly became one of the most elegant, strongest and talented midfielders in England.
Spurs earned qualification into the Champions League and recorded their highest ever Premier League finish despite losing key components in the spine of their team.
Stage three: Got the man.
After deploying Eric Dier as a make-shift midfielder, Pochettino finally got his man as he brought in former Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama. Dier moves back into defence, and Wanyama builds a formidable partnership alongside fellow brute Mousa Dembele.
Dembele and Wanyama were integral to a stellar campaign in the farewell season at White Hart Lane, losing just three times when starting alongside one another.
Stage four: Where is the man gone?
So after three seasons at Spurs, it looks as if Pochettino has his perfect midfield pairing and all is well? No.
Victor Wanyama has appeared just once this season, as he limped through a home game with Chelsea, and hasn’t featured since due to a knee injury. The club and Pochettino have remained cautious on the subject of the injury and nobody knows when the Kenyan will be available again, with some reports suggesting he may return to fitness in the festive period, whilst contrasting reports suggest that he may not feature again this season. If anybody does know about Wanyama and his physical state please get in touch.
Mousa Dembele on the other hand has featured more than Wanyama, but has only managed eight appearances this term. The 30 year old admitted that he can never guarantee he will ever be 100% fit again, claiming that he “has been playing at 60/70%” for the last few years during a pre-season interview with ESPN.
The absentees mean that Pochettino has had to be pragmatic with the tools at his disposal, placing plenty of faith in youngster Harry Winks who has excelled in the ‘number 6’ role this season, whilst outcast Moussa Sissoko has sometimes been deployed as a partner alongside Winks or Dier.
“Yeah but what has he won?”
Many of Mauricio Pochettino’s critics will argue that the Argentine is short of any silverware throughout his managerial career, and are somewhat premature in disregarding Spurs due to their lack of silverware.
Pochettino has transformed Spurs from a mentally weak, flakey, spineless top 7 side to a determined, hard-working efficient mainstay within the top four in the country. Last season, The Lilywhites recorded a record tally of 86 points with an outstanding goal difference of +60, despite long term injuries to Danny Rose, Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld throughout the campaign.
Tottenham Hotspur have earned the right to compete with the giants of English football with a sizable difference in financial resources, whether that be transfer budget or wage infrastructure.
The future is bright, the future is lilywhite!
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