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Is Mauricio Pochettino doing the best job of all the Premier League managers?

The Spurs boss has led his side to their best-ever Premier League start.

Mauricio Pochettino (file pic).
Mauricio Pochettino (file pic).
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

IT IS OFFICIALLY Tottenham’s best-ever start to a Premier League season.

They are level on points with Chelsea and Arsenal, while trailing leaders Manchester City by just two points.

They have won four on the bounce and seven from nine league matches in total this season.

Were it not for the fact that it is shaping up to be one of the most competitive title races ever, Spurs’ form would normally see them in a much higher position than fifth.

And yet despite all this positive news, does anyone really believe Tottenham can manage a credible challenge for the title?

They face Man City on Monday. If you were to count the aggregate score of the sides’ two league games last season, it would be 7-2 in City’s favour.

The Etihad outfit have strengthened since then with the addition of Riyad Mahrez to their squad, whereas Spurs signed no one of note over the summer.

Alex Ferguson hailed Mauricio Pochettino a few years back as the best manager in the league, and while the Argentine boss has yet to win a single trophy for his side, there is evidence to suggest the Manchester United manager’s claim was not far off the mark.

A recently published study by the CIES Football Observatory of Europe’s top 20 biggest spending clubs in terms of transfer fees over the past eight years had Tottenham at 16th having spent £530.98million in transfer fees since 2010. 

That figure meant they were behind Everton (15th), Arsenal (14th), Liverpool (7th), Manchester United (5th), Chelsea (2nd) and Manchester City (1st).

In total, City have spent £1.325billion in transfer fees since 2010 — almost twice as much as Tottenham.

Spurs are notoriously frugal when it comes to player wages too, a policy which has led to both individual unrest (Toby Alderweireld) and departures (Kyle Walker).

Key players, including Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, have frequently been linked with moves away from the club, and if their current trophyless run continues this season, you wonder how long some of these stars will buy into the project, particularly when they could be earning significantly more money elsewhere.

The problems with the stadium move have compounded the sense of frustration, while there have been on-field struggles too.

There has been a vulnerability to Spurs at times under Pochettino, despite the manager’s impressive achievement in turning them into regular qualifiers for the Champions League and punching above their weight in the process.

You can go all the way back to the way they meekly surrendered the title to Leicester in 2015, losing a two-goal lead against Chelsea, dropping points in the game before that at home to West Brom, with a 5-1 final day defeat against already-relegated Newcastle ensuring they were even pipped to second-place by London rivals Arsenal.

The following season saw improvements, as they achieved a best-ever Premier League placing of second, but they still were poor in losing 1-0 to West Ham, which all but ended their hopes of putting pressure on soon-to-be-champions Chelsea.

Last season, there was progress to a degree in Europe, notably when they overcame eventual Champions League winners Real Madrid 3-1 in the group stages.

However, evidence of their mental fragility remained. Having dominated Juventus for most of the two round-of-16 matches and gone ahead in the second leg at Wembley, a loss of concentration amid three minutes of madness was enough for the visitors to regain the lead, scoring twice in quick succession before seeing out the tie.

Similarly, Spurs were beaten by Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, having overcome the Red Devils at the same venue in the league earlier in the season. Since winning the trophy in 1991, Tottenham have lost eight semi-finals on the bounce in the competition, with the United defeat consolidating their reputation as ‘nearly men’.

Despite improvements in recent years, Spurs have struggled against the top sides more often than they would like, particularly away from home. Spurs had just one win in 19 games on the road against fellow ‘big-six’ sides last season, though beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in April and winning at Old Trafford earlier in this campaign arrested that trend.

On the back of a disappointing error-strewn midweek result that has left them on the brink of a Champions League exit, Spurs on Monday host a formidable City side that are unbeaten so far in the league, and Pep Guardiola’s men will go into the game as clear favourites.

Whatever the outcome though, there is a feeling that Pochettino, by increasing expectations in North London, has made his job more difficult, with the notoriously hard-to-please fans expecting further progress, with mere Champions League qualification now virtually taken for granted.

In reality though, given their limited resources, Spurs’ progress in recent years has been remarkable, and a sense of the bigger picture is required when it comes to assessing the prowess of the team and their manager.  

Premier League fixtures (all kick-offs 3pm unless stated otherwise)

Saturday

Brighton v Wolves 

Fulham v Bournemouth

Liverpool v Cardiff

Southampton v Newcastle

Watford v Huddersfield

Leicester City v West Ham (17.30)

Sunday

Burnley v Chelsea (13.30)

Crystal Palace v Arsenal (13.30)

Man United v Everton (16.00)

Monday

Tottenham v Man City (20.00)

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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