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Maybe next season we play the FA Cup with kids’
What is success? It is a broad, somewhat vague question that is relevant to most aspects of life, and particularly so in the context of life at Tottenham Hotspur. Following defeat against Manchester United on Saturday, there were
more accusations of “choking” and “bottling it” thrown Spurs’ way, and to some extent they were justified given this was
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the club’s eighth successive defeat in an FA Cup semi-final, and one in which they faded badly having started strongly and taken the lead. Yet to choke and lose your bottle you first have to get to a stage where those failures are relevant and that is what Tottenham are doing now on a regular basis – winning games, going far, remaining in the conversation beyond the winter and into the heat of spring. Is that in itself not success?
Mauricio Pochettino certainly thinks so if his comments on Saturday evening are anything to go by. Having insisted he had no regrets about the manner of his team’s loss, the manager called for a wider appreciation of the “process” he has instigated since taking over at Tottenham four years ago, one that has seen expectations rise to the point where “arriving at the [FA Cup] semi-final and being competitive in the Champions League and the Premier League is not enough”.
It was not the first time Pochettino had called for perspective in the face of perceived impatience and perhaps also explains his answer when it was put to him that in regards to the FA Cup specifically, it may be better for all associated with the club if next season he did not take the competition too seriously. Play the kids. Take a third-round exit on the chin. Keep expectations to a minimum.
“Yes, I am thinking with Tottenham to play with kids the next time. I agree with you,” he said. “It
is my job to be criticised when we don’t win. The problem is the perception sometimes is not realistic. But maybe next we will provide the possibility to play with kids and I’m sure it will be fantastic for experience and everything. Then we stop to arrive in this situation.”
Not surprisingly, Pochettino’s remarks drew startled glances from those listening and while it is possible the Argentinian had not understood the question properly, he said what he said, and what he said gave the stark impression that this most considered of men has reached a level of frustration in regards to how Tottenham’s progress under his charge is being perceived.
It may also be possible that Pochettino has recognised that for all the progress – the success – he has achieved since succeeding Tim Sherwood in May 2014, there is only so far he can take this team. That much could be taken from how, completely unprompted, he also alluded to a time when he is no longer in charge. “Tottenham need more time with me or with another, but the most important thing is to keep going and keep developing,” he said. This was
new. Notable. Not to be dismissed lightly.
The picture is a somewhat uncertain one, then, after Saturday’s game, in which Dele Alli gave Tottenham the lead during a spell when those in white and blue were leaving United dizzy with their movement and energy. But then Alexis Sánchez equalised and the balance shifted. Ander Herrera’s winner was coming and sucked all belief out of a team that have already beaten José Mourinho’s men at Wembley this season, as well as Real Madrid, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Was this collapse, then, more mental than physical or tactical, borne out of a grim sense of deja vu? “It could be,” admitted Harry Kane. “There’s obviously a reason why we’re falling short in semi-finals.
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So we have to do better. I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly what it is. But it’s frustrating. We just have to find our
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way round it.”
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