What is his tragic flaw? Is it like Julius Caesar’s hubris at not being able to see his own friends wanting to stab him, or Othello being blinded by jealousy of his beautiful wife, or even Lear’s comically foolish arrogance. Was this the mechanism of our downfall?
THE TRAGIC FLAW OF POCHETTINO AND TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Tottenham Hotspur are both literally and figuratively the most dramatic and Shakespearean club in England. We do not simply burn out and collapse at exactly the wrong moment, we self-immolate with a strut and swagger not seen since the Globe theatre burned down in 1613 due to that cannon catching the thatched roof on fire. Shakespeare moved back to Stratford and never wrote again. Are we bound for a similar ignominy? I sincerely hope not.
Tottenham have strategically been building towards having our moment. Our greatest asset is Pochettino. In his own way, the Argentine, who can be jovial and bellicose within the span of a few moments might be the very sort of tragic figure that breaks us apart at that key moment when the spotlight is finally upon us. Suffice it to say, he is a perfect fit for our ideals.
Like many tragic figures throughout history, Pochettino has noble intentions. Along with his uncanny knack of building a cult of personality. Seemingly, his is one without the dark overtones of Mourinho. His fatal flaw might be the “all or nothing” gambit. You are either with us, or you are against us. It worked to brilliant effect when he first arrived.
What is his tragic flaw? Is it like Julius Caesar’s hubris at not being able to see his own friends wanting to stab him, or Othello being blinded by jealousy of his beautiful wife, or even Lear’s comically foolish arrogance. Was this the mechanism of our downfall? Could it be that Pochettino’s flaw is not his manic double training sessions, his belief in universal energy, or even the endless references to “the collective”; but inversely not adhering to his own principles. If Pochettino had been brave and stuck to his own principles, would we find ourselves in this crisis we’re in now? And make no mistake, it’s a crisis at this point.
As we are in the critical part of the story now, we might remember back to the turbulent early days of Pochettino’s tenure where he weeded out anybody who didn’t believe in the collective. His first season saw mini-rebellions in the dressing room until youth prospects famously stood up against the more senior players. It worked. Granted, we had some massive doses of good fortune in Harry Kane. And make no mistake Harry Kane almost didn’t exist. It is only through dumb luck we sing his name. But that’s another story.
Other players finding form and roles under Pochettino was also key. Mousa Dembele prime among them. Pochettino building our full backs into top flight players helped push us to the next level. Our beloved nickname the “fullback whisperer” is not for nothing. Walker and Rose soared to new heights. In true dramatic tragedy formula, a crack had to appear somewhere. One might easily say it was Walker. He allegedly went to Pochettino in the days before the league cup semi-final to ask for a move to Manchester City. Pochettino true to his ideals froze Walker out. He isolated him, made him a bit part player until he was sold a few months later to Manchester City. So perhaps not Walker. Strangely, might it be that the first real crack in our tragic hero’s ideal was Danny Rose. The favored son.
When he did his interview with “that paper” and talked candidly about the club, its methods, its lack of ambition in the transfer market and his unhappiness with how it was run. All of this was said while he was injured and very unhappy. Was this the true knife in the dark? Could this have been the beginning of the end of Pochettino and his ideals of the new Tottenham? To be absolutely clear, I do not blame Rose at all for being completely candid, and for being exactly who he is. It’s why we all love him. I still love him. But in football, nothing lasts forever.
If Poch had frozen Rose out and sold him, would that have been harsh? Probably. But, it wasn’t even the last dent in the collective ideal. Toby Alderweireld, surely one of the best center backs in world football at the moment also refused to sign a new contract worth a pretty penny, but not enough in the scheme of the wealthier elite on the continent. Toby was briefly isolated, until he strangely found his way back into the starting XI last season. The cracks in the ideals that built our glorious revival into the new Tottenham Hotspur were now beginning to show. Was it right for Poch and Levy to blink and let these characters back into the fold for short term gain in the league and what would become the single greatest moment in our club’s history, a Champion’s League final?
Which brings us to the crucial moment of this painful play. Last year Tottenham Hotspur failed to sign a new player. We also didn’t sell on any of the malcontent players in the squad. One would presume there were two exigent factors. One, we could not get the money we wanted to sign replacements of adequate quality. Two, we simply didn’t have the money due to our over-extension into the new stadium build. Either answer doesn’t change the outcome that we sold an aging Mousa Dembele, and leaned heavily into existing players to play midfield, and somehow through a series of fortunate last minute winners push our misfit team to the pinnacle of European football.
The whole team pushed to the very last. Alas in true Tottenham fashion fell just short of the final moment needed for eternal glory. While I would not trade anything for what happened last season, two months into this season, it seems an indescribable type of folly to think there would be no reckoning for last year’s missteps. Managing a squad of players who have given their all for us, but simply do not want to charge the battlement’s one more time is not his fault. All we can ask is that he lives up to his own standards.
This manager demands 100% commitment. Eriksen, Rose, Toby, and Jan have given their time, if not their all to the club. It may be difficult in the short term, we might have to say goodbye to these players for now. Knowing how our greatest asset operates and his principles, can our club conform to operate in a way to allow Pochettino to get us to the next level? Or are we doomed to perpetually self-immolate at the pinnacle of the fourth act?
Our club will continue to run the knife’s edge of disaster. At least short term. Our finances seem to hold us back from operating at a level where we can adhere to the principles that got us into our current position. Pochettino has been the most transformational force at Tottenham Hotspur since I started following in the early nineties. Dumping the most wanted manager in Europe apart from Pep would be an even greater level of folly than not signing players for over twelve months. The future is uncertain, but to keep things moving forward the only way out is through.