Paul Merson says: Mauricio Pochettino could leave Tottenham with ‘spark’ fading

In his weekly column, Paul Merson says he thinks time may be up for Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur within the course of this season – and considers whether the club has gone stale.

Something has to change at Tottenham

I was talking to one of the other dads at my child’s school. He’s a Tottenham fan, and I asked him how long Pochettino’s been there now. He said five years. Five years? That’s a long time. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a brilliant manager. But it’s a long time – he’s doing the same thing every week, the same voice… are the players getting comfortable?

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I watched Spurs beat Crystal Palace the other week. They were like the Harlem Globetrotters. They made Palace look pathetic. They were the last team to win at Manchester United, Arsenal and Man City – they know how to win in big games. But then Spurs go to Leicester and get beat, having been to Olympiakos where they threw away two goals. I’m not saying get rid of the manager, but everything’s getting a bit monotonous now.

I’ve got to get this right – I don’t want to say get rid of Pochettino and everything’s right, but it’s just gone sour there. With everybody, the whole thing needs changing. They’re a good team, who are not going to win the league – once again.

It just looks a bit like the players are thinking ‘we can’t win the league now’. The spark’s gone a bit. They’ve got a very good team together, but they lose too many matches. They’ve already lost two this season, and they should’ve got beat easily at Man City. Last season they lost, including in the Champions League, about 20 football matches.

From then until now, it’s about one out of three. That’s not good for a top-four team. They should’ve beaten Arsenal – a good Tottenham team, full of confidence and hunger, would have picked Arsenal off and beaten them five. But it doesn’t look starving to me.

I don’t know how to put my finger on it. The players have got to ask themselves serious questions at the end of this season. Do they want to stay at a club and fizzle out? And I’m not saying this because I used to play for Arsenal, but at the end of their careers, they’re never going to have to work again. Do they want to stay comfortable, finish top four every week and play week-in, week-out, or go somewhere and win something? They might not play every week, but they’ll win something.

Do I think Pochettino will be there next season? No. The only thing with that is that he will start to lose his credibility if they don’t stay where they are.

They’re the third-best team in the league, in my opinion, still. But even with managers, you’ve got to make hay when the sun shines. When Fergie was at United, how many times did we hear that Mark Hughes, Bryan Robson or Steve Bruce would be the next manager? They were all doing well at that time.

Losing to Liverpool raised Chelsea’s expectations

People know I’m a Chelsea fan, and I was pleased with their performance on Sunday – not the result, but there’s a lot of positives to come out of that game.

Look at Chelsea now and you think they could get in the top four. They’ve given a lot of people heart, and it’ll give Frank heart.

I think expectations have gone up now. After that performance, you’re looking at top four. When you see what’s around, you’re looking at top four. With losing the game, it’s backfired in a way – the expectations have gone up rather than down. I’ve seen enough yesterday to say they’ll be in the mix.

Chelsea looked like one of the better lot of the six yesterday. The other two are head and shoulders above, head and shoulders. But they haven’t been able to buy anyone, other teams are spending 80, 90, 100 million quid.

It’s about bringing the kids through. If Frank’s not the manager, Tomori, Mount and Abraham wouldn’t just be in the team, they’d be out on loan. He could’ve easily played the experienced players and made life easy for himself. He’s put the club ahead of himself.

Emery brings himself back from the brink

Arsenal beating Villa is a big win. After the week before at Watford, to look like they were going to get beat by Villa… it wouldn’t have been good. It papers over the cracks though for another week.

Arsenal are in a situation at the moment where everyone’s in transition – Man Utd aren’t great, Tottenham aren’t great, Chelsea aren’t great, it’s a real big time for someone like Leicester to break this top four and you’ve got to have a good start, but again, you need to make hay while the sun shines.

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