Guillem Balague’s new book, Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs, provides first-hand accounts of the Tottenham Hotspur manager’s third season in charge of the club.
Balague was granted behind-the-scenes access throughout the 2016-17 season, talking to the manager and his coaches as well as frequently visiting the training ground.
Here are 10 of the most interesting things we learnt about Pochettino and Spurs:
1) Bravery is at the heart of the Pochettino philosophy
There is a good reason Balague chose the title “Brave New World” for this book. The word “bravery” is probably the most common word in this biography, uttered by Pochettino whenever he talks about creating a winning mentality, the drive for self-improvement, and his tactical preparations. For the Spurs manager, tactics and mentality go hand in hand.
Tactically, the book merely confirms what we have already witnessed by watching Spurs over the last three years.
Pochettino and his assistants demand constant movement in every training session, with the idea being to “provoke a controlled disorder, to create so much movement that it distresses the opposition”.
This is true both on the ball and off the ball: “The players have told me since that, even today, they still hear Jesus [Poch’s assistant] yelling out ‘press, press, press’ in their dreams.”
Pochettino believes this requires immense bravery, which is something he constantly demands of his players and discusses in great detail throughout the book.
2) He wants to manage England one day
Having coached 15 of the last 30 England debutants, there is surely nobody in world football better suited to the national job, and the good news for England fans is that Pochettino is keen to take up the challenge.
“If I were to move into international management one day, I’d relish the opportunity to coach the England national team,” he says, before praising the hard work young English players put into improving their game.
3) He also had problems with Luke Shaw
Pochettino was left disappointed by the attitude of Luke Shaw when he brought him through from the academy at Southampton.
Although ultimately enjoying a good relationship as Shaw’s work-rate improved, the Argentine’s comments help shed some light on Jose Mourinho’s treatment of the young left-back.
“I felt his head was not in the right place to make the sacrifices and decisions that are necessary at that age,” Pochettino says.
Shaw had been frequently visiting London during his time with Southampton and broke a promise to Pochettino by continuing to travel to the capital after a long heart-to-heart. Suddenly Mourinho’s attitude towards Shaw makes more sense…
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4) The key to his excellent man-management is reviving players’ love for the sport
Pochettino’s motivational skills have been key to the dramatic self-improvement we have seen in Spurs players over the last three years. The core principle of his pep talks, or so it would seem from Balague’s book, is to reignite their love for the sport with long, passionate speeches.
“After such talks, the reaction is instantaneous. It can have miraculous effects because, after reminding them that this is not a job but something they used to love, it takes players deep into their consciences and they each go back to a certain point in their past.”
5) The Spurs dressing room was in a bad state when he first arrived
Pochettino is pretty damning when it comes to the state of affairs upon his arrival.
“The Tottenham dressing room was full of figures who at some point in their careers had been considered stars but had lost their way. And the team didn’t come first. Two weeks after coming here I remember saying to Hugo Lloris, ‘What am I doing here?’
“Some of them didn’t share our ideas but tried to adapt; others rejected them from day one. A few disrespected us.”
6) Pochettino deserves credit for Harry Kane’s extraordinary development
The coach describes Kane’s “resignation” following his frequent loan moves and the hiring of yet another new manager, and that he played like “a player in his thirties”.
“Human beings tend to naturally settle and stop doing those small things that are so essential if you want to keep on winning,” Pochettino says. “I had several stern conversations with Harry in which I had to make him understand that he had to get ready for whenever the opportunity might arise.”
He is persistently teaching Kane new lessons about himself throughout the book and talking to him during dry spells, most notably showing Kane a critical video of his performance that left the England striker admitting he had no idea he had even played badly.
“He likes to film everything,” Kane points out in the book’s epilogue.
7) Walker told Pochettino in April that he was going to leave
Balague lays out the entire conversation when, in April, Walker told Pochettino he had achieved all he could at Spurs and wanted to move on. The Argentine doesn’t hide his anger and is very upset that Walker did not wait until the end of the season.
However, he does not believe the situation was a distraction, since “twenty players out of our twenty-five-man squad are coveted by other clubs”.
8) He has a great Adebayor anecdote to add the collection…
Like most of the coaches Adebayor has worked under, Pochettino found the Togolese both frustrating and charming – “Ade’s eccentricities gave us plenty of laughs” – and shares his favourite anecdote with Balague in the book.
Adebayor angrily storms into a meeting Pochettino is having with director Franco Baldini and chairman Daniel Levy (which naturally leaves both “stony-faced”) demanding to know why he has been left out of the squad. He wasn’t cross not to be playing, but because he had already sent his chauffer home and so would now have to book a minicab!
“Priceless!” in the words of Pochettino.
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9) Pochettino thought he was about to get sacked during his first season
Spurs went to Villa Park in November 2014 having collected just 14 points from the first 10 games, and so Pochettino can be forgiven for feeling pessimistic when the team were 1-0 down with eight minutes left on the clock.
“I turned to face the dugout. I looked at Toni, Jesus, and Miki [his assistants] and told them, ‘Lads, pack your bags tonight, because tomorrow we’re going home.’”
Spurs scored two late goals to win the match 2-1, but it just goes to show there is a thin line between success and failure in football.
10) Pochettino is quite the philosopher
“As we all know, we have our conscious and unconscious minds.” Philosophy and a spiritual fatalism is littered throughout A Brave New World, ranging from the religious (“nothing happens by chance, there is a reason for everything”) to the, well, more bizarre.
“I am convinced humans have many mental abilities that are yet to be developed,” he tells Balague. “Believe in the stars.”
By Alex Keble
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