/Tottenham must show Pochettino what he could leave behind – ESPN.co.uk

Tottenham must show Pochettino what he could leave behind – ESPN.co.uk

LONDON — Player power does not always have to be a destructive force. It might have contributed to Jose Mourinho’s departure from Manchester United this week, but as Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side cruised past bitter rivals Arsenal, winning 2-0 to book a place against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semifinals, they showed what might ultimately be enough to keep their manager.

It is no secret that Pochettino is at the top of United’s list as long-term successor to Mourinho; indeed, sources have told ESPN FC that it is a shortlist of one. Tottenham’s players will know the speculation about their boss will not go away until the Old Trafford manager’s office is occupied permanently, once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s short-term role finishes at the end of the season.

Pochettino may choose to end the uncertainty over his future by publicly committing himself to his current employers, but that sort of thing rarely happens in modern sport, so everyone at Tottenham can brace themselves for a six-month guessing game. Will he stay or will he go? Do not expect an answer anytime soon.

But with nothing certain either way, the Tottenham squad know that they can influence their manager’s thinking with performances on the pitch. If they allow the gossip to become a distraction that affects results and leads to the club missing out on silverware and Champions League qualification, then Pochettino might decide that he has taken Spurs as far as he can.

If Wednesday’s emphatic 2-0 dismantling of Arsenal is a sign of things to come in the second half of the season, though, and sets up the trophy-laden success Spurs have been threatening in recent seasons, then Pochettino will have a dilemma if United do come calling with a job offer.

Eventually, somebody will get United back on their feet and make the team competitive at home and abroad. They are a giant of a club, England’s biggest and the only one capable of challenging Real Madrid and Barcelona for the title of the world’s best-supported team, so being the person to restore that glory would appeal to any coach.

On the flip side, Pochettino is on the brink of something special at Spurs, as this performance underlined. The young team that he has developed and shaped is beginning to hit its prime. Maybe the next two seasons are a case of now or never, but if that is the case, does he really want to gift-wrap potential glory for his successor?

It is that nagging thought that could keep the 46-year-old where he is and the players will know that their best hope of holding onto Pochettino is by turning their potential into trophies.

Had they lost at the Emirates Stadium, the narrative would have been about Spurs coming up short with the pressure on again. Instead, they came through the test and the goals they got from Son Heung-min Son and Dele Alli — the latter a cool, classy chip of supreme confidence — emphasised the talent at Pochettino’s disposal.

Instead of choking, Spurs went into enemy territory and avenged the Premier League defeat they suffered against Arsenal just 17 days ago. They stood up and delivered and showed their boss what he would be leaving behind if he moved on.

But this win will not be enough and to make a truly compelling case for Pochettino to reject all advances — Real Madrid might also come calling — this group of players must bring a trophy to the club this season. A two-legged tie against Chelsea in the last four, plus the prospect of a final vs. Manchester City, means there is plenty of work left to do.

“We want to win and deliver for our fans,” Pochettino said after this game. “But sometimes, it is not easy to win. When you play against Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Liverpool, United, it is more important to make a competitive team and then you need some luck. Sometimes it is unfair to talk about winning titles, though, because it’s very competitive in this country.”

Spurs can afford no more near misses or false dawns, especially now their manager is the target of such a powerful rival. Under Pochettino, they lost the 2015 EFL Cup final to Chelsea, suffered FA Cup semifinals defeats against the same opposition and Manchester United and lost out on the Premier League title to Leicester in 2015-16.

Now they stand within touching distance of another final, which could be the catalyst for something big if they are able to open the rebuilt White Hart Lane with a cup to put in the trophy cabinet. It is all down to Tottenham’s players; more performances and results like this will make it so much harder for Pochettino to walk away.

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