It’s no surprise that Mauricio Pochettino appears to be on the verge of losing his job as PSG manager. After failing to win the Champions League, securing the Ligue 1 title was never going to be enough to save him. Even so, the Parisiens’ apparent haste in dumping him is an old cruel business.
Pochettino has had a strange period in Paris. It has, predictably, resulted in the trophies he lacked on his CV. It has, predictably, shown the fallacy of prior accusations against his coaching abilities based on the fact that he had not won any titles. It has never been about the prizes, and it never will be. It’s simply whacking the target of your criticism with whatever stick you have on hand.
If his brilliant Spurs team had won a Carabao or FA Cup, the ‘no trophies’ argument would have become ‘just a Carabao.’ Even winning the 2019 Champions League would have been relegated to the back of one’s mind and dismissed as a fluke.
If that seems unlikely, consider what Manchester United supporters said when the City-Liverpool rivalry was dubbed the Premier League’s greatest rivalry. The cudgel used against Liverpool and Klopp was the phrase “just one Premier League title.” If something is inconvenient, it can be written off. Pochettino has done exactly as well as anyone could have reasonably expected at PSG, yet his stock has inevitably fallen as a result. Anyone could win Ligue 1 with PSG; it makes no difference.
And no manager has yet to deliver the Champions League championship they desire, and it’s unclear whether any manager will be able to overcome the disadvantage of trying to step up from a lower-quality domestic league to the teak-tough knockout stages. His reign in Paris has been marred by flaws, as it was bound to be. Despite his ties to the club in its earlier life as a football club, his next job after Spurs had to be with one of the superclubs, and PSG always looked like the worst fit.
Pochettino’s philosophy is all about the team-“you sign a contract to practice, not to play”—and that was never a good fit for a club that is first and foremost a branding and commercial vehicle. His doubters point to his shaky performance in Paris as proof that he still has a second-tier quality about him, that he isn’t quite ready for the big assignments. All we know is that he wasn’t the right person for one of the most important jobs.
The criticism is anticipated, but what’s odd is that there now appears to be some unfavorable retrospective evaluation of his time at the Spurs, with much of it coming from Spurs fans. Nothing that has happened to Spurs or Pochettino since he left seems to confirm this theory, yet it exists anyway. That’s because the announcement of his impending departure from Paris often prompts speculation about a Spurs comeback. It’s all about the timing in this case because even a couple of minutes can make a big difference.
The timing is crucial here since it would not have played out the same way even a few weeks ago. When the Manchester United position was still open and Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur appeared to have found gold by scoring four goals per week, the focus would have shifted to United.
But Manchester United has signed Erik Ten Hag, and Spurs have gone two games without a shot on target, against Brighton and Brentford. Conte is staring at the exit door once more, and the sense of dread has returned. Football in the Champions League has also gone from ‘probable’ to ‘unlikely.’ So, should the Spurs consider re-signing Poch? It is simple to make an argument from the heart. Unfinished business exists on both sides, and Pochettino has made no secret of his desire to return to the club at some point in the future.