Pochettino Installed To Breathe Life Back Into Lamela and Spurs

New Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino (Image from Getty)

After an extensive search following the departure of Tim Sherwood, Tottenham announced yesterday that they had appointed Southampton’s Mauricio Pochettino as their new manager. Whilst the fans may have preferred another appointment, with Ajax’s boss Frank De Boer one of the names touted, the news will be received greatly by one Spurs player in particular. Since his arrival from Roma last summer, the weight of expectation has rested firmly on Erik Lamela’s shoulders. Spurs fans would have been forgiven for having high hopes about a player that the club chose to spend just over £25million for and reports from Italy suggested at the time that they were correct to set the benchmark high given Lamela’s past two seasons at Roma. But like many foreign players coming into the Premiership, Lamela struggled to adapt, not only on the pitch and the high intensity of the Premiership but also culturally with north London a more rougher proposition that his previous home in Rome.

Short of Confidence - Erik Lamela  (Image from Getty)

Short of Confidence – Erik Lamela
(Image from Getty)

It didn’t help that then coach Andre Villas Boas preferred to play him on the left as a natural replacement for the departed Gareth Bale when arguably his best and most comfortable position was on the right flank. The Portuguese coach was also heavily criticized for not looking after his new talent, instead allowing Lamela to integrate himself, despite knowing that the player was struggling. After Villas Boas left and Tim Sherwood took charge, things started to look brighter for Lamela as Sherwood brought back most the players on the peripherals to dramatic effect. Lamela started Sherwood’s first game in charge, ironically a 3-2 win over Pochettino’s Southampton side and immediately showed what the Spurs fans had been missing with a series of smart runs down the right wing. He would then come on as a sub for the next two games before injuring his back in training which ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Talk of Tottenham shipping out the Argentinean in the summer started at the beginning of April and has been persistent ever since with a move back to Italy becoming the monthly running favourite with most media sources.

Villas Boas was sacked in December (Image from Getty)

Villas Boas was sacked in December (Image from Getty)

But the appointment of fellow Argentine Pochettino is likely to change that with the new coach unlikely to sanction a move away from the club for one of its more talented players. Pochettino instead will look to apply the same approach he had at Southampton, working with each player to extract the best out of them as much as possible for the benefit of the team. Before he took charge of Southampton, Jay Rodriguez was nowhere near an England squad but after working with Pochettino for a season and a half, he had one foot on the plane to Brazil before an anterior cruciate ligament injury in April ruled him out of contention. Similarly Pochettino worked to smooth the rough edges of fellow striker Rickie Lambert, perfecting his positioning and hold up play that eventually turned him into World Cup bound England striker. Whilst Lamela requires little work in terms of talent development, Pochettino can help by reinstalling the confidence in his fellow countryman that once flowed through him during his spells with River Plate and Roma. Having Lamela back living up to his full potential will have the same result for Pochettino and Tottenham as buying a new world class player but without the bedding in period.

Rickie Lambert, England Striker  (Image from Getty)

Rickie Lambert, England Striker
(Image from Getty)

Lamela is immensely talented and was wrongly ignored by Villas Boas but Pochettino could reap the rewards as he kickstarts his spell as Tottenham boss. The new Spurs coach will have a lot of work ahead of him including trimming down the Tottenham squad of all the excess fat before he starts to bring in his own people. He will spend the off season molding his team into the squad he want before working in the pre season to teach them the tactics he wants to play. At Southampton, Pochettino preferred the 4-2-3-1 formation and will make that the basis for his tactical plans at Spurs. He will want to play attractive attacking football, with pace and flair with Dane Christian Eriksen operating in the central positions of the three attacking midfielders, much like Adam Lallana performed at Southampton. Lamela will be restored and placed on his favoured right flank with permission granted from his manager to explore the gaps and run at defenders with pace and enthusiasm. This will suit Lamela who will be desperate to prove to the naysayers that he is not a dud and he can still offer something to Tottenham. The smart money will be on Pochettino investing in a left winger (or  perhaps place his faith in Andros Townsend) who can then work with Lamela and Eriksen to gain the most out of his attacking trio.

Lamela scored 15 goals the season before moving to Spurs  (Image from PA)

Lamela scored 15 goals the season before moving to Spurs
(Image from PA)

Whilst Pochettino may not be the glamour choice for Spurs, he may end up being the right one. He will nurture the existing fringe players like Lamela and Lewis Holtby to bring out the best in them whilst also bringing through some of the new stars of tomorrow in the Tottenham youth squad like Cristian Ceballos, Shaquile Coulthirst and Alex Pritchard much like he did at Southampton with Luke Shaw, James Ward Prowse and Calum Chambers. Even if Pochettino can only transform Erik Lamela back into the player he was at Roma, he will have a hugely successful spell as Tottenham boss.

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Reading Boss Reveals A Little Too Much Information

No Love Lost with Abramovich

As a club manager, it’s vital to have a strong relationship with your chairman and owner. Chelsea is a great example of this. When the team is winning, Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire owner of the Blues, is your best friend, often showering gifts onto coaches as he basks in the positivity a victory run can bring. But when the times get tough, Abramovich is the last person you want near you, becoming more like a petulant child who will not take no for an answer. Many coaches have eventually fallen from grace at Chelsea – Ranieri, Mourinho, Grant, Ancelotti, Villas Boas – after falling out of favour with Roman. Ultimately this is his club, he owns the ground,employs the players and the staff so if he doesn’t like what he see, he changes it. Roberto Di Matteo has managed to give himself breathing room for the time being and win favour from Abramovich by securing the prize he wanted the most – the Champions League but now into his first full season in charge, he is under pressure to exceed again, not only domestically but in Europe as well. It may be only a matter of time before the wealthy Russian is sharpening his axe once more.

Just down the M4, another Russian is settling into life as a Premiership chairman for the first time. Anton Zingarevich arrived at the Madejski Stadium in May 2012 after purchasing then Championship side Reading from its owner, Sir John Madejski. Using his company, Thames Sport Investment, he bought the club just as it secured a return to the Premiership and promised money to manager Brian McDermott for the forthcoming campaign. He has duly delivered and has forged a strong relationship with McDermott as the two worked closely to secure signings like Russian international striker, Pavel Pogrebnyak from under the noses of Fulham. McDermott praised  Zingarevich’s contribution and a friendship blossomed between the two.

Just the Two of Us – McDermott and Zingarevich

However results haven’t been fantastic this season and Reading find themselves 3rd from bottom with only 6 points from the first 10 games which must add strain and pressure to their relationship. Like any good couple, disagreements are common but are often resolved by talking and some time away from things. Asked by TalkSport if he felt his relationship with Zingarevich had been fractured and a rift had emerged between them, he was quick to stomp out the rumours as untrue:

“That’s nonsense. I don’t know where that came from. We went for a drink after the Arsenal game. We talked about  players and we talked about football”

“He watched the game. We went to a local pub in west London. I stayed in the hotel with him that night. We had a few drinks with the locals. They all talked  about the game the night before. We talked about different players, went back to his hotel, had a drink back there and then went to bed. We woke up the next day, had another chat and that was it”

McDermott may have revealed too much about his relationship with his chairman but it would appear as though the two are still very close. But as the season progresses,  Zingarevich will be looking for McDermott to show to him that he is still the right man for him and for Reading or if divorce is on the cards for the two.

To hear the full interview for yourself, click here: http://www.talksport.co.uk/sports-news/football/premier-league/121110/exclusive-%E2%80%93-mcdermott-dismisses-zingarevich-feud-184996

Move over Ferguson and Mourinho, there are new players in town

Every so often in football, a new manager comes along with a fresh approach and different opinions on how the game should be played, captivating players and fans alike. Rinus Michels led the way with his total football approach which changed the way the game was played. Out went the long ball in favour of a slick passing game that gave players the flexibility to show their talents. The strategy was to foster team coherence and individual imagination – with all players possessing the skills to play in any part of the pitch. Since then, others have followed suit. Alex Ferguson focused on building a youth team that would eventually lead his Manchester United team to trophy after trophy. Arsene Wenger’s approach to the transfer market – buying young, nurturing and selling for inflated prices bore success at Arsenal. Mourinho’s approach was to introduce charisma and bravado, unseen in management, by proclaiming he was ” The Special One” and Pep Guardiola fell heavily on analysis and player improvements to help win his haul of 14 cups in 4 years.

But now a new batch of talented managers has appeared, all of a similar mould. Responsible for four of the biggest clubs in Europe, these men come from the same school of thinking – to win, you have to outsmart your opponent and be better than them in everything that you do. Their tactical awareness, player insight and new coaching techniques are helping their players become the stars of tomorrow.  Interestingly all four had limited playing careers and entered coaching at an early age. They are all young, hungry and with a point to prove.

Jurgen Klopp

Leading the new pretenders is German Jurgen Klopp, manager of reigning champions Borussia Dortmund. An average player in his day, starting first as a striker then reverting to a centre back, he spent his entire professional career at Mainz. It was here in 2001, that he got his break into club management, taking over from the former Canada manager, Eckhard Krautzun who had been sacked in January. Already considered a legend at the club, Klopp started to rebuild the fortunes of Mainz and during a seven-year spell as boss, he took the lowly german side back into the Bundesliga and into Europe for the first time in their history. His style of attacking football, supported by a strong back line gave his team the competitive edge that did not go unnoticed by Germany’s top clubs. After a unsucessful period under Thomas Doll, Borussia Dortmund came calling for Klopp’s services (now unemployed after resigning from Mainz).

In his first year at Dortmund, Klopp stabilised the club and lead them to victory in the DFL Supercup in his first season, beating champions Bayern Munich in the final. Over the next few years he would improve the squad with clever signings from across the world like Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa, bought from Cerezo Osaka for €350,000, Paraguay striker Lucas Barrios, bought from Colo Colo for €4.2 million and Serbian defender Neven Subotić, bought from Klopp’s old club Mainz for a nominal fee. He blended them with a talented bunch of younger players coming through their youth squad (Mario Götze, Marco Reus, Sebastian Kehl and Nuri Şahin) to create a pulsating team that swept through the Bundesliga to back to back titles.

Leaning on his experiences at Mainz, Klopp’s success is down to three factors – Tactics, intelligence and hunger. Tactically he realised to compete in the league on a regular basis against the best teams, you need to build from the back and counter attack with pace and skill. In came a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the two defensive midfielders not only offering cover to the back four but the key holders to turning defense into counter attack. He spent hours looking at footage of other teams as well as his to identify areas of weakness and development, focusing on the latter in training sessions. Employing young and hungry players, looking to make a name in football, he found that they were willing to give everything to win and would fight for every ball and more importantly for their teammates.

Despite losing some talented players over the years (Sahin to Real Madrid, Kagawa to Manchester United) he has retained the nucleus of his team and continues to build the squad with the goal of achieving more success and hopefully a third Bundesliga title.

Andrea Stramaccioni

Claudio Ranieri’s time in charge at Inter was largely disappointing so when he was sacked in March of this year, the world of football anticipated that an established manager would be hired to turn the team around. However club owner Massimo Moratti had other ideas and instead turned to the club’s youth coach, 36-year-old Andrea Stramaccioni and handed him the top job. Hired initially as caretaker until the end of the season, Moratti saw enough to give Stramaccioni a permanent deal to become the youngest head coach in Serie A.

Stramaccoini had a limited playing career with Bologna that was cruelly cut short at the age of 19 due to a serious knee injury. After retiring from the game he loved, he looked towards coaching and worked with a variety of amateur and youth teams before being noticed by Roma who appointed him to their youth team coaching staff in 2005. At Roma, he learned from two of Italy’s greatest coaches, Arrigo Sacchi and current Italy manager Cesare Prandelli, watching their every move like an obsessed child, studying how they managed and worked with the players. It was during his time at Roma that Stramaccioni took his UEFA A licence which led to him meeting Roberto Samaden, Inter youth academy director who would hire him at Inter 2 years later, giving him the manager’s job at F.C. Internazionale Milano Primavera, Inter’s under 19’s team.

Inter’s youth team has produced a host of top stars over the years such as Giuseppe Bergomi, Walter Zenga, Goran Pandev and recently Mario Balotelli and is seen as the future of the club. Stramaccioni’s had some success with the team including leading them to victory in the 2011-2012 NextGen Series beating Ajax in the final (picture above). But now the young manager is working his form of magic on the first team, rebuilding after a torrid time under Raneiri, focusing on what he knows best – youth. The new look Inter Milan squad boasts a string of young players like 17-year-old Ibrahim Mbaye, 21-year-old Joel Obi and 18-year-old Luca Garritano. But it’s the revitalisation of key players like Wesley Sneijder and club captain, Javier Zanetti that has been the turning point for the club. A tireless worker, Stramaccioni can spend hours on getting his tactics right, especially when it comes to set pieces, be they defensive or offensive. He hates a fixed formation, focusing on one common thought – provide the players with the best tactics and formation for them to excel. Despite his age, Stramaccioni respects his players and wants them to succeed as much as he does:

“I used to admire them from the other side of the hedge at the youth team’s training pitch, and now they’re part of my team. Asking such players to ‘learn’ things would be a bad mistake. I simply have to provide them with the best possible conditions for them to exhibit their talents,”

André Villas-Boas

After a unsucessful time at Chelsea, where Villas Boas was sacked by owner Roman Abramovich some say unfairly after only 8 months in the job, André Villas Boas has found a path back into the Premiership with Tottenham. The former Porto coach, who led his unfancied team to UEFA Cup success in his first season in charge, never played professionally but from a young age was obsessed with football. As a Porto fan aged only 16, André Villas-Boas sent a letter to then manager and England legend Bobby Robson criticising his team selection and asking for reasonings behind leaving on form Portuguese striker Domingos on the bench behind Russian striker Sergei Yuran. Robson invited Villas-Boas to the next training session and was so impressed with the youngsters knowledge that he hired him to work in the Porto observation department and helped him gain his UEFA ‘C’ coaching badge in Largs, Scotland, despite him technically being ineligible as he was aged 17. Villas Boas learnt a lot from Robson and formed a close relationship with his interpreter at Porto, Jose Mourinho. After leaving Porto in 1998 to go become the national boss of the British Virgin Islands at aged 21, it wasn’t long before he rejoined Porto as assistant manager under new boss Mourinho. The bond between the two grew and where Mourinho went, Villas Boas followed, first to Chelsea then on to Inter Milan.

His first step into club management came back home with Académica, who until his appointment had been the whipping boys in the Portuguese league. Lying bottom without a win when he took over, Villas Boas introduced a fresh attacking style which helped propel them up the league into 11th place and into the semi finals of the Portuguese cup, narrowly losing to a late Porto goal in the end. His achievements at the club caught the attentions of Sporting Lisbon but it was Porto that managed to hire him, which ultimately led them to the League title, Portuguese Cup and Europa League Cup in his first and only season in charge. Roman Abramovich watched in interest and that summer paid Porto €15 million to secure his services as the Chelsea boss.

The statistical and analytical work that Villas Boas carried out under Robson paved the way for the development of his coaching style. Not a fan of egotistical players, he relies heavily on the facts, selecting his team based on work rate in training, data from the previous matches and conditioning reports from his medical and fitness teams. Some players enjoyed working with him like former Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou:

“We enjoyed training. He was focused, meticulous and he was driven. He showed us  videos of the opposition, outlining their strengths and weaknesses — most  managers didn’t use that information. But we would sit in the dressing room, taking off our training kit and start  whispering to each other,’ he recalled. How long before he’s sacked? ‘One game? “Maybe”.You think so? “He can’t lose”. No chance, The boss (Roman Abramovich) won’t let it happen”

Unfortunately this is what led to his dismissal at Chelsea who are controlled not by the manager but by egos like Terry, Anelka and Ashley Cole who resented the coaches methods and complained to the person who they saw as The Boss, owner Roman Abramovich that something had to be done. Chelsea’s loss is Tottenham’s gain as the snapped up the young coach in the summer.

Francesc ‘Tito’ Vilanova

To take over from the most successful Barcelona coach of all time, Pep Guardiola, in a year when winning La Liga back from arch rivals Real Madrid is of utmost importance, some people would be forgiven for thinking that Francescito Vilanova was crazy. But the former assistant, known as Tito who has now become the boss after his promotion in the summer, looks at things differently. He perceives it as continuing the work that he and Guardiola had done the previous four years. For the new coach, this is his first real test as manager. Growing up in Spain, he started as a player at Barcelona in the B team striking up a friendship with a powerful midfielder called Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola then after 2 years moved on seeking first team football. After a less than successful career around a host of Spanish clubs – Mallorca, Celta de Vigo and Lleida to name a few, he ended up back at Barcelona in a coaching capacity. Beginning work as Pep’s right hand man began in 2007 with the Barcelona B team who at the time were in the Spanish 4th division. His work with Guardiola helped to turn around the fortunes of the reserve squad and engineering promotion to the 3rd division with two years. After Dutch legend Frank Rijkaard’s dismissal from the managers role with the main team, Guardiola was the surprise choice to take over and took Tito along for the ride. What happened next saw Barcelona transformed into quite possibly the best team in the world, winning 14 titles in 4 glorious years for the club.

But the threads started to show at the end of last year and the strain finally took its toll on both men. Tito in particular had a difficult last season. In late 2011, Vilanova underwent an operation to remove a life-threatening tumour found on his parotid gland, the largest of the salivary glands keeping him out for some time. Guardiola was feeling the pressure too and announced that he would quit at the end of the season and go on a year-long sabbatical as he felt completely drained. Before he did so, he told the Barcelona chairman, Sandro Rosell to look no further than his assistant for his replacement. Citing Tito’s intelligence and tactical knowledge, he felt he was the ideal man to keep Barcelona on track for future success. For Tito, the work began in July when he officially took over the reigns but early signs are showing that he is up for the task and is improving them team left to him by his good friend Guardiola.

The relationship he has with his players goes back across not only the last four years but all the years he has spent at Barcelona. He gave a first start to a then 13 year old Lionel Messi in the Barca B team and was instrumental in persauding Guardiola to promote him from his role as a winger to an out and out striker.

“Tito was the first person to put me in the team. Until then I was a sub or didn’t play at all.” said Messi of his new boss.

He also blooded a host of other youngsters during his time in the B team that now play under him as manager now of the first team – Gerard Piqué, Cesc Fábregas, Pedro and Sergio Busquets all started out under Vilanova. Messi however is in no doubt that Tito is the right manto replace Guardiola

“They have different personalities,” Messi says, “but the work is the same. The training sessions have not changed.”

This should work in the short term but if Vilanova is to become his own boss and have the same level of sucess as his friend,  he will need to come out from under Guardiola’s shadow and change the team, tactics and training and stamp his own trademark on them. With a squad as talented as the Barcelona team, whatever system he adopts, Tito will have some of the best players in the world to execute against it but if he is unable to get them to play to his way, then trophies may be lacking under Vilavona which will surely cost him his job.