How Pochettino will improve Spurs

Mauricio Pochettino is renown for developing youth in Spain. His record in Spain when you delve into it beyond points and league position is impressive.


How Pochettino will improve Spurs


Espanyol have no money. The EU demanded Spain's football clubs pay their tax bills and bank loans, neither of which any club was doing or being asked to do. Having just built a new 40,000 seater stadium the club were being bled dry by it. Players had to be sold every transfer window to survive so

Pochettino had to survive on youth players and new loan players every six months. His achievement in keeping them in La Liga and obtaining mid table status was remarkable. A club can not survive like that forever. When you consider the Spanish Champions, Atl├ętico Madrid, have a wage bill the size of Fulham's you start to appreciate the financial level he must have been working under.

Those achievements and his revamping of Espanyol’s academy is what first attracted Joe Lewis to our second Argentinian manager. His methods differ from Frank de Boer who has a more individualistic approach.

You could sum the difference in philosophy up as improve the team and you'll improve the individual or improve the individual and you'll improve the team.

Espanyol are a Barcelona based club and  have produced 15 Spanish internationals across all age levels this century. In Spain’s top two divisions there are 40 current ex Espanyol youth players playing regularly. Everyone at Espanyol speaks about Pochettino in has glowing terms.

Former youth coach Sergi Angulo Lerin worked with him at Espanyol. He was then hired by prestigious FN Sport Etudes French Academy as co-ordinator and coach of their football section in Sainte Tulle, Marseille. The academy has 5 schools in France, 1 in England and 1 in USA. He is also works for Barcelona and Espanyol watching players in the south of France.

He is a good man to talk to about how the Pochettino academy worked at Espanyol.

“In Spain, game philosophy is based on the collective concept, playing the game with two touches maximum, building the attack through the best pass, building from the back, making the best decision for the group. 
"The philosophy in France, England and other countries is more individually based, it's a much more direct game. Often instead of building from the back they rely on wingers to dribble and cross.

"Instead of working on physical strength, speed, skill and dribbling, Spanish coaches work harder on pass control, real-game situations, decision-making exercises etc.

“That’s why we produce players who understand teamwork, and how to ‘read’ the game.”

This is the way Pochettino works, every Wednesday he plays an 11 vs 11 game often against the academy players where his coaches will dictate situations to play out. Spanish players are all about teamwork and reading the game whereas other European countries are more about skill and speed. At Tottenham we can expect to see more of that Spanish ethic in our play.

Players like Danny Rose and Vlad Chiriches (although it's highly unlikely he will be at Tottenham next season) who are poor at reading a game will benefit from Pochettino's coaching philosophy. They both need to improve their positional play, their reading of the game and their decision making which will be tackled during the 11 vs 11 training.

Training will centre upon exercises that while developing the player as a whole will enhance and hone these skills. Angulo explained the philosophy Pochettino used at Espanyol.

"Exercises were holistic, training all skills but focusing on a main skill to improve. In games there is no analytical technique situation because there are factors such as emotional, psychological, tactical, opponents, etc. 
"The player has to get used to all these factors, otherwise, despite his good skills and technique, he does not know how to read the game and choose the best option."

That is exactly the problem Pochettino's 11 vs 11 training tackles. Andre Villas-Boas coached to three-quarters the way up the field and then the players had to make the choices. Too often the wrong choice was made and in the end players simply passed the buck, passing sideways to a teammate letting them make a decision. The result was we didn't pass to Soldado and created nothing.

Pochettino's training methods should start to alleviate that problem and players with more game intelligence are not only better players, they are worth more. It's natural that players will leave so developing them mentally will see transfer values increase so his methods have advantages both on and off the pitch.

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This difference in coaching philosophy is explained by former League of Ireland player Mark O’Sullivan, who now lives in Stockholm. He is a youth coaching in the Swedish top flight but previously studied at Ajax and Barcelona for his UEFA licenses.

“There’s a clear divide between practice in Northern Europe and Spain, and you see this clearly at Espanyol.

“In Sweden, Britain, even in Holland, there’s too much emphasis on individual, isolated training. You take one kid aside, get him to work on his dribbling, or his control, whatever. The thing is, I’ve never seen a player tackled in a match by a training cone.

“At Espanyol – and I saw this too at lower division sides in the area – it’s fully integrated.

“Forget the cones. Set up a bunch of kids in a match-type scenario, and let them work it out for themselves. It’s the closest thing to street football.

“Once the scenario’s over, they’re taken aside, asked questions, asked for their thoughts. This can go on for minutes, then you set them up again, let them at it, and see if they can do better; invariably, they do.

“This is the key – let them arrive at the answer, rather than dictating it to them. This is how you develop game intelligence, and this is where Spain beats us hands down. There’s too much of a tendency in Northern Europe to breed athletes and isolated training exacerbates the problem.

“So you end up with guys who are fine physical specimens, even with great technique in isolated situations. That’s great. But you also need to be able to apply that in matches, think fast, make decisions instantly.

“I saw this right across the age levels at Espanyol.

“In Sweden – and Britain is no different – there’s an alarming drop in players’ capacity in this area once they hit 13.

“Solving this ... that’s our biggest challenge.”


The mental side of sport separates the good from the top quality and at Tottenham we have not created enough top quality players. We have seen them pass through as their level doesn't match ours but now with Mauricio Pochettino's approach perhaps more of the top quality will be created and or stay around for longer.



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