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Self-sabotage: Do Spurs & Pochettino actually want to be part of elite?

COMMENT: Are they really up to it? This lot at Spurs. From the chairman and manager through to the players. Are this lot truly capable of lifting Tottenham to the elite of the game...?

The short answer, at least before this season kicked off, was yes. But now? Well, now this club is doing it's best to self-sabotage. How could you argue otherwise? From Daniel Levy, the chairman, short-changing Fernando Llorente and allowing him to leave. To Jan Vertonghen arriving for preseason overweight. And the constant sniping of the manager, Mauricio Pochettino, at his players. From the outside looking in, the place looks wracked by in-fighting. It's almost as if they're determined for the club's potential not to be realised.

And this was all before the trip to Colchester.

In the aftermath of the Carabao Cup shock, Pochettino turned the spotlight on his players, talking about "agendas" and the lack of a "mental connection". In other words, he felt there's some, even as the transfer window's firmly shut, with their minds elsewhere. And as a consequence, the unity that led to last season's run to the Champions League final had been lost.

But what credibility does Pochettino have levelling such accusations? Particularly when barely 24 hours earlier he was creating headlines in Italy by leaving the door open to an approach from Real Madrid?

It may've been lighthearted and done in jest, but Pochettino has been in the game long enough to know the ramifications - especially when it comes to anything connected to Real Madrid. On the 'green' carpet for Monday's FIFA gala, the Argentine was asked about joining Real - and replied with: "Maybe some year".

A throwaway line? Maybe. But how serious can the likes of Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld take Pochettino's demands for unity when he's out in public courting Real? Indeed, how would the Argentine have reacted if it was Eriksen talking up a future LaLiga move not 48 hours before humiliation at Colchester?

Sharpen the focus and Pochettino appears to have been on a one-man wrecking mission since preseason - and we're not just talking his public complaints of Levy's work in the market. Nor chastising his chairman for voting to shorten the Premier League transfer window (he's actually right on that one).

It's been the regular digs at his players. Little swipes that can't have gone unnoticed by those he manages. The aftermath at Colchester was simply the latest in a catalog of soundbites from Pochettino where he's been open and willing to dig out his squad.

He's written them off as being among the Champions League favourites. He's questioned their desire. And just this week, the manager declared the current squad as not the best he's had at Spurs. If Pochettino truly fancied sabotaging their season, of running down the confidence of his players, it's doubtful he could do a better job.

So why do it? Why the constant sniping? For some in the press, it's a clear sign of Pochettino trying to engineer a move away. But his words, when you get beyond the digs, state otherwise.

Just Wednesday, when talking about working the January market, Pochettino intimated planning was also underway for the summer transfer window: "We are working so hard to put everyone on the same page. Only we need time. January is going to be a good opportunity too to fix this situation and the next one."

The truth is, this is Pochettino. He will call out his players in public. He will be ruthless with his opinions. He isn't Pep Guardiola. Nor Jurgen Klopp. Only now, with the bar and expectations raised, the scrutiny is also intensifying. For Pochettino. For his career. The manager has entered unchartered territory.

At Espanyol, the Argentine lasted three years. Southampton? Less than two. But with Spurs, Pochettino is entering year six. This really is new ground.

Is the message still getting through? And if it is, how are the players interpreting it? The constant jabs must have a cumulative effect. The players - in public - will declare loyalty to the manager. But their actions hint at something different. Eriksen, Alderweireld and Vertonghen could all sign pre-contracts elsewhere at the turn of the year. Not a mass revolt nor exodus. But it does suggest not all's well at Spurs Lodge - "agendas" 'n all that.

A Champions League final. A new stadium. Having poured so much into the club to reach this point. To be on the brink - at least in appearances - of an exciting new era. You'd think the easiest move for the likes of Eriksen would be to re-sign. Yet instead they're doing the opposite.

Like the club as a whole, it's almost as if they don't want to take that final step...

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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