Mauricio Pochettino has been quick to undercut the importance of the domestic cups in recent years. ‘Our objective is to win the Premier League, to win the Champions League,’ he told us back in October, just days before nosediving out of the Carabao Cup to West Ham. All part of the plan, presumably.
He stayed on message last weekend, too. In the build up to Spurs’ third round FA Cup tie with AFC Wimbledon, Pochettino reiterated his stance that ‘fighting for the Champions League and fighting for the Premier League‘ were his primary concerns.
I can see the logic. Tottenham have crafted two quite handy title bids in consecutive seasons—a 3rd place finish in 2015/16 followed by a runners-up spot a year later. It’s only natural that an ambitious coach like Pochettino would think he could swing one notch higher. Indeed, the upward curve Spurs have followed since the Argentine’s arrival in 2014, would suggest it was entirely possible.
He’s right to aim for ultimate glory.
But, with how this season is shaping up, will Pochettino have to realign his focus?
While he may have had noble intentions of challenging at the League’s summit, Pochettino won’t have banked on the sheer dominance of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
There’re plenty of stats that can underline how ruthless City have been. From a Spurs prospective, Guardiola has already clocked up more wins than Tottenham did in the year they came 3rd. Their second highest finish in Premier League history.
We’re not the only ones struggling to keep up. José Mourinho and Antonio Conte, supposedly the closest thing the Spaniard has to a rival, have already mentally checked-out. ‘Probably, yes’, was Mourinho’s response after the Manchester derby in December, when asked if it was all over.
To put that into context: we’re six points behind United.
In short, Spurs can cross the League title off the list for another year.
So what does that leave us, of the trophies Pochettino had earmarked as top priorities? The Champions League? Stranger things have happened in European football, but not many.
Overcoming a wily Juventus side over two legs will be demanding enough. Particularly as they’ll be coming straight off a rejuvenating fortnight winter break. From there it only gets tougher.
Kane desperate for silverware
With those two competitions seemingly closed shops, then, Pochettino might have to consider his options. The FA Cup won’t change the life of Tottenham, to use his own words, but it does represent a neat opportunity to put some silverware in the cabinet for the North London club.
And, if he’s not convinced by the will of the fans, then perhaps Harry Kane‘s latest missive might be more persuasive:
‘We want to win a trophy somehow and this is a competition we’re looking at to do that.’
Jan Vertonghen was also resolute in his post-match interview, after the Wimbledon game:
‘We just want to go through to the final and win a trophy,‘ he said, while reflecting on his rare top-corner-finding pile driver.
Never mind the Premier League and Champions League, with Newport County up next, the FA Cup should now be Pochettino’s top priority.