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No hast & little energy: Why Levy & Pochettino accepted inevitable Spurs split

COMMENT: Coerced. Manipulated. That's how some inside Tottenham are feeling today about their ma-... ahem... former manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, laid it out in his statement after the Argentine's sacking had been made official. This was no knee-jerk decision. It had been a long time coming. And for some working inside the club, there's a rock solid belief it was a decision Pochettino has actually been working towards.

Confirming Pochettino's dismissal, Levy's statement was no throwaway gesture. The chairman was mindful, beyond referencing results - we'll touch on that in a sec - to include the real reasons why the time had arrived for Pochettino to go. He didn't offer any great detail, but there really wasn't any need to. Anyone paying attention could see the writing had long been scrawled across the wall.

"We were extremely reluctant to make this change and it is not a decision the Board has taken lightly, nor in haste," declared the chairman. "Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing."

Indeed, Spurs haven't won in the league for two months. And away from home, that hasn't happened since Fulham in January this year. Overall, from their last 24 league games, they've managed just the four wins. No matter how you slice it, that's the stuff of relegations.

But it's that opening line from Levy which sticks out. This call wasn't done in haste. It's been something under consideration for some weeks. The run to the Champions League final last season. The charm and the relationship Pochettino enjoys with the press. Much of the decline of Spurs this past year has avoided the media spotlight.

But take a cold, sober look and contrast where the team stands today and what was expected going into this season - and it's clear Pochettino's methods have fallen short.

With their new stadium. Fresh from a first Champions League final appearance. Boasting the England captain. The country's hottest young midfielder. And France's World Cup winning skipper. It was all set up for this campaign. Spurs, under Pochettino, were primed to take that final step into the game's elite.

But beneath the surface, it wasn't quite like that. Despite the charisma, Pochettino had a raft of senior players ready to walk out on him. Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld only remained Spurs players this season due to Levy's stubbornness. Basically the spine of the team had decided to mark their time, play out the season, and leave as free agents next summer. Many blame the board - and Levy's ambitions - for this attitude. But it also comes down to the leader of this squad. The manager. And from this trio's stand, it was clear the dressing room was no longer buying what Poch was selling.

That's not to say this is a toxic locker room. Far from it. And that's the baffling thing about Pochettino's demise. This is a good set of players that Jose Mourinho now inherits. Good personalities, with big ambitions. For all the outside transfer speculation, the doubts regarding contract status, there's never been anything destructive coming from the players. They have plans to leave, but none of the players - nor their minders - have gone to the press to run down the club, nor their teammates.

That's in contrast to their now former manager, who repeatedly volunteered - without prompting - information about there being disquiet behind the scenes. Elimination from Carabao Cup at the hands of Colchester United had Pochettino talking about "agendas" and a lack of "mental connection" amongst the players, "We are working so hard to put everyone on the same page".

Of course, the players weren't the only ones to cop it in these final months. As much as he appeared determined to drive a wedge between himself and the squad, Pochettino was also never shy to publicly complain about Levy and his work in the transfer market. He questioned his chairman's support of a shortened summer transfer window. He questioned the club's transfer policy. He even raised doubts about the credentials of the players the club had signed: "We sign players who are young and have the potential. Tanguy Ndombele only played two seasons at Lyon, didn't win anything and we brought him here to try to make him a top player".

As we're learning now, there's been a growing belief inside Spurs that Pochettino had been trying to engineer a move out of the club. £12.5m as a payout does suggest he was never going to walk. Instead, he would simply become bolder and bolder in calling out Levy and his players - to the point where it all became untenable.

But as mentioned, he leaves behind him a good locker room. It's only now, with the manager gone, that we're hearing that Pochettino's message had become stale. Look around the league. Indeed, look across Europe. And more often than not, a manager's sacking is pre-empted by a rash of locker room leaks about a deteriorating relationship between him and his players. But that just wasn't the case at Spurs. The undermining only went one way.

Again, Levy touched on this in his statement. Indeed, in one sentence he summed up what had gone wrong: "We have a talented squad. We need to re-energise and look to deliver a positive season for our supporters."

The manager's words had grown tired. The players had seen it all before. And Pochettino - for whatever reason - couldn't find a way to stop the slide. For many inside the club yesterday's decision was inevitable.

How much Pochettino consciously contributed to this... well, we'll have to wait for the book.

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TransfersOpinion
Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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