On 27 May 2014, Mauricio Pochettino usurped Tim Sherwood to become the head coach of Tottenham Hotspur. During his five-year reign, you could argue that he oversaw the most successful period in the team’s modern history. His dethroning came on the evening of 19 November 2019; a sacking that seemed hard-hearted and vicious. The nature of Daniel Levy’s decision appeared to juxtapose the exact qualities that won the hearts of Spurs fans everywhere; Pochettino had a softness about him. Players described him as a father-figure, yet there was a certain force that omitted from his identity, in turn, providing the football club with one of their own. What made the decision seem particularly cold-blooded was that “magic” Poch had taken Tottenham to their first ever European Cup final a mere five months previously. Before the Champions League final against Liverpool on 01 June, Pochettino and his side appeared to be on the verge of greatness, he came so closeto immortalising himself as a North London legend. Needless to say, the summer of 2019 was soon replaced by a hazy languor that seemed to confirm all managerial reigns can end in tragedy.
That was then. This is now. After a period of rest and recuperation, Mauricio Pochettino is managing one of the best sides in European football. How are things going? I’ll be honest, when I first decided to look into the occurrences of Ligue 1, I had expected to see PSG in cruise control and Pochettino well on his way to lifting his first top-flight title as a manager. Alas, all is not as it seems across the channel. It is in fact the city that boasts the world’s first driverless metro system that ironically sits in the driver’s seat. Lille OSC are a point ahead of the current Champions with a game in hand after PSG swatted aside Dijon FCO, who solemnly sit rock bottom of the division. I suppose they couldn’t mustard up the strength and desire to pose a serious threat to Poch’s new side, who dominated the game and left the field with a 4-0 victory in the bag.
It was Moise Kean who opened the scoring for Les Parisiens, after some impressive quick feet allowed him to open up his body and slot the ball into the corner. This goal came after only five minutes, I guess you could say he was Kean as mustard to get on scoresheet and deliver his eleventh goal of the campaign. A delightful return for a player who had a turbulent and underwhelming season as an Everton player. One can only wonder whether Pochettino will use PSG’s financial muscle to keep hold of the Italian forward beyond his loan agreement.
Unsurprisingly, it was the man of the moment, Kylian Mbappé, who doubled the tally. After an unfortunate handball in the thirty-first minute by ex-Swansea City midfielder Bersant Celina, a penalty was awarded to Les Rouge-et-Bleu, which was comfortably guided home. Unfortunately for Dijon, this was only prelude to another Mbappé goal in the fiftieth minute; a finish that really cut the mustard. Mbappé’s second was his fourth against Dijon this season and the twelfth in his career. Overall, the twenty-two-year-old superstar has executed 113 goals for PSG, only Edison Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimović boast more.
The final nail in the coffin was delivered by Danilo Pereira with a thunderous header in the eighty-first minute, leaving relegation contenders Dijon with no chance to catch-up. Pochettino said after the game that he was happy. He suggested it was an expected performance from his side and the only problem that he faces now is knowing who to select for the next game against Bordeaux. Confident words from a man who seemingly has the world at his feet again. They may not be league leaders currently, but they have their fate in their own hands as they still need to play Lille OSC at the Parc des Princes in April.
I must admit, as a neutral I was sad to see Pochettino evacuated from the Premier League. He comes across as one of the good guys, a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and demands the same from his players. It is hard to gauge whether he will be successful at a club whose owners are even more unforgiving than Daniel Levy. Whilst we have no way of knowing, there is a perspicuous success criterion that Pochettino surely must meet: win the Champions League, or else. In the words of Celine Dijon: ‘That’s The Way It Is’.