Tottenham finished second in the Premier League in 2016-17, their best placing since 1963. They have come a long way since Mauricio Pochettino took charge.
The Argentine only took over at White Hart Lane in 2014, but in just three seasons he transformed the team from one which had just finished sixth to one which secured their best finish of the Premier League era.
To emphasise the development of Spurs under Pochettino, we’ve taken a look at the first starting XI he selected for a competitive game – a 1-0 win at West Ham on the opening day of the 2014-15 season – and compared it to an XI from 2016-17.
The attacking thrills of Dele Alli and Harry Kane may grab most of the attention, but Pochettino has been lucky to be able to build a team on the foundations of one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
The Frenchman has developed into a leader for both club and country, and Pochettino’s impact has been so profound on the stopper that he said: “Certainly, my destiny is linked to Mauricio. He matters a lot to me. Our relationship goes beyond football, it’s a match, and one day he will be the best manager in the world.”
Not Premier League but for pure improvisation, this from Hugo Lloris against Leverkusen was phenomenal.https://t.co/B5I3Qvi3dI
— David Preece (@davidpreece12) May 15, 2017
Naughton did not make the best of first impressions on Pochettino, getting sent off after just 29 minutes in the Argentine’s opening match, and he would go on to make just four further Premier League appearances for Spurs before being sold to Swansea.
But one of Pochettino’s biggest success stories has been the improvement in Spurs’ full-backs. Walker was an England international when the manager arrived, but Kyle Walker 2.0 has become one of the best right-backs in Europe.
Trippier has proved an able deputy since signing from Burnley and might soon get the opportunity to similarly improve as first choice.
Having won the League Cup, helped the side qualify for the Champions League and scored a winner in a North London Derby at Arsenal, Kaboul will be remembered fondly among Tottenham supporters.
However, after starting Pochettino’s first season as club captain, Kaboul made only 11 league appearances and left for Sunderland in the following summer.
Alderweireld, meanwhile, has been nothing short of a revelation since moving to England, first with Southampton and then with Spurs, after Pochettino recognised the club could not afford to miss out on the defender.
The Belgian now forms one half of one of the best centre-back partnerships in the country.
Dier arrived at Tottenham as an intriguing case. An English player reared at Sporting Lisbon, he has become one of Pochettino’s most trusted performers since scoring a 93rd-minute winner at West Ham on his debut.
Now an England international and linked with moves to Manchester United and Bayern Munich, Pochettino has turned Dier into an excellent holding midfielder who can operate at centre-back from time to time.
It’s easy to forget that Vertonghen is one of Spurs’ longest serving players. Signed by Andre Villas-Boas in 2012, there was a sense that the defender lost his way a little at one stage, but he has been revitalised since being partnered with compatriot Alderweireld and is now a nominee for the Premier League’s Player of the Season award.
Jan Vertonghen finally getting the recognition he deserves for an unreal season. ?? pic.twitter.com/GfCnZZPdN2
— Hotspur Related (@HotspurRelated) May 15, 2017
“The manager came in and spoke with me, I was one of the first people he spoke to,” Rose told Tottenham’s official website last year. “We talked about a lot of things for about an hour and one of the first things he said was if I entered into his philosophy, he would make me into an England player, so he’s been true to his word.”
Like Walker on the opposite flank, the improvement in Rose under Pochettino has been particularly eye-catching. At one point Rose was a figure of ridicule among Premier League supporters, but he is now England’s first-choice left-back.
Known as “the gaffer’s son” among the Spurs squad, he has said of Pochettino: “He’s been like a father figure to myself and a lot of the players here.”
Bentaleb was one of the success stories of Pochettino’s first season, impressing enough in midfield to earn a new five-year contract. But the follow season brought suggestions of a fall-out with the manager and only five league appearances.
Though he has gone on to impress on loan at Schalke, there will be no return to north London and he will join the German side permanently in the summer.
In his place has stepped up Dier, in a role which seems to suit him best, or Wanyama, whose £11million signing from Southampton seems to be getting criminally overlooked as one of the transfers of the season.
Capoue joined Tottenham with a promising reputation, but he never truly established himself at White Hart Lane, making 12 league appearances in both of his campaigns with the club, though he has since gone on to impress at Watford.
Dembele has been nothing short of a revelation under Pochettino, finally fulfilling his potential and becoming one of the best midfielders in the league.
Last month, Pochettino said: “I always say ‘Mousa, in my book you will be one of my genius players that I have been lucky to meet’. One was Maradona, the others Ronaldinho, Okocha and De la Pena – he was a genius too – and Mousa Dembele.
“We always told him that if we had taken him at 18 or 19 years old, he would have become one of the best players in the world. I would have loved to have taken him on at 18.”
Adam Lallana and Mousa Dembele have found their perfect managers in the autumns of their careers. It’s sad, in a way https://t.co/7RDI5iLtnw
— Football365 (@F365) May 11, 2017
One of the biggest disappointments of Tottenham’s current season has been the injury absence of Lamela, whose future at Spurs appears in doubt after returning to his former club Roma for treatment. The winger enjoyed his finest season in England under Pochettino, who seemed to have made him physically prepared for English football.
In some cases, Son is quite similar to Lamela. Written off in some quarters after his first season in England, there was talk the attacker could be sold last summer, but he has thrived in this second year, scoring 19 goals in all competitions and inspiring many more handshakes.
Tottenham knew they had a potential star on their hands when they signed Eriksen from Ajax in 2013, but at times it has taken some coaxing out of the Denmark international.
The demanding style of Pochettino has suited the attacking midfielder, who has improved season upon season and has enjoyed his most prolific campaign with 12 goals and 21 assists in all competitions.
9 – Christian Eriksen has provided nine PL assists for Harry Kane since August 2015; no player has provided more for a teammate. Telepathy. pic.twitter.com/NRz0kU63d5
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 14, 2017
Lennon was a loyal servant to Tottenham, making 364 appearances in all competitions for the club and being involved in the run to the Champions League quarter-finals, but by the time Pochettino arrived his career was starting to stagnate, and come January 2015 he was on his way to Everton.
What can be said about Alli that has not already been said? Pochettino deserves credit for giving the youngster the opportunity, but even he would not have expected the player to grasp it so emphatically.
Though he was not a direct replacement for Lennon given the differences in position, it is striking that in two seasons in the top flight, Alli has scored more Premier League goals than the winger managed in 10 seasons at Spurs.
It seems strange looking back to think that Adebayor, and not Kane, started Pochettino’s first competitive match in charge, but the Togo striker had enjoyed a mini resurgence under Tim Sherwood in the previous season – who can forget *that* salute?
But by November, Pochettino could not ignore Kane’s form in the cup competitions any longer and handed the striker his first league start of the season. Neither player nor manager has looked back since, with Kane becoming the poster boy for Pochettino’s Tottenham.
Kane is now only 26 goals away from Adebayor’s Premier League total of 97, despite having played 128 matches less.
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