Mauricio Pochettino predicted that Tottenham Hotspur would have to endure a “painful rebuild” only he did not realise he would be spared the suffering.
Back in 2019, just days before Spurs‘ defeat to Ajax in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, the Argentine had laid out very clearly what needed to happen at the club.
“When you talk about Tottenham, everyone says you have an amazing house but you need to put in the furniture,” explained the 49-year-old.
“If you want to have a lovely house maybe you need better furniture, and it depends on your budget if you are going to spend money.
“We need to be respectful with teams like Manchester City or Liverpool who spend a lot of money. We are brave, we are clever, we are creative.
“Now it’s about creating another chapter and to have the clear idea of how we are going to build that new project. We need to rebuild. It’s going to be painful.”
This was not an out of the blue comment from Pochettino. It was a consistent message he had been preaching for more than a year beforehand as he sensed that the team needed to refresh and rebuild, only for the club to go through back to back transfer windows without signing anyone.
Now Pochettino was banging the drum loudly for everyone to hear.
“We need to close the chapter now and start to think in the new chapter, the new era for Tottenham,” he said after the new stadium’s opening match against Crystal Palace.
“[We need to] start to settle all the principles to make sure that Tottenham are real contenders for big things because I think, with the training ground and this new stadium, you can only think big.
“If we are not capable of thinking big, we are going to struggle. You know it will be a shame if we don’t think big and start to behave like a big club because, after building the training ground and the stadium, now we need to be realistic contenders for big things in the future of this club.”
He added: “It’s going to be an amazing project but there is a lot of work to do, of course, to be on this level of these types of clubs.
“[Tottenham are] World Cup winners in terms of facilities. I think we have the best in the world. Until now, the balance was like this, with the team playing Champions League [and the stadium worse]. Now the stadium is here [better than the team] and we need to be on the same level on the pitch, like the level we have here.”
Many fans have been awaiting the ‘painful rebuild’ but the truth appears to be that Spurs have already been going through it.
It was so painful that few actually noticed and Pochettino escaped the bulk of it thanks to his departure from the club in November 2019.
Since his comments about the rebuild, Spurs have signed 13 players, who have made varying degrees of impact on the team, in Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, Ryan Sessegnon, Jack Clarke, Steven Bergwijn, Gedson Fernandes, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Joe Hart, Matt Doherty, Gareth Bale, Sergio Reguilon, Carlos Vinicius and Joe Rodon.
Heading out the door among others since 2019 began have been previously key starting XI players under Pochettino in Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen, Kieran Trippier, Jan Vertonghen, Victor Wanyama and Danny Rose.
Pochettino’s own departure meant Jose Mourinho was left to deal with the wake of the changes and the decline that had begun in 2019 during the Argentine’s final 11 months continued with four consecutive top four finishes sliding into sixth and then seventh place spots in the Premier League.
As frustrated as the fans are, the question is whether the rebuild has been brutal enough? Should more fringe players have been sold to finance an improvement in the main XI rather than starters sold with questions over whether their replacements are at the same standard let alone better?
The rebuild must continue this summer however painful it is and three key decisions will have to be made by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.
The first is whether Harry Kane becomes part of the key player exodus and is allowed to leave for an exorbitant fee in order to finance yet more changes to the squad. All of the current indications from Spurs are that the England captain will not be departing the club as he’s just too difficult to replace.
The second decision is just how hard Tottenham push to bring Pochettino back to the club to oversee what might be the final stages of the rebuild he had called for, having been spared from its more brutal seasons.
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Finally Levy must decide whether he wants to end this revamp sooner rather than later by raising finance from somewhere to improve the starting XI this summer.
Kane said in his recent interview that he felt the team needed only “one or two good players” to challenge the leading clubs again.
Mistakes have been made on and off the pitch in recent years at Tottenham.
Off of it, more could have been done in selling players at the right time, certain transfer targets pushed that little bit more for and Pochettino backed during those crucial two windows when the club stood still.
On it, Pochettino and his players could have performed to their potential and won in various big semi-finals and that historic Champions League final to help propel the club to another level.
So the painful rebuild seems to be happening around the Tottenham fans and they’re understandably frustrated, but who will lead them out of it to the other side?