Mourinho next? And other Spurs questions after Pochettino's sacking
Mauricio Pochettino has left Tottenham Hotspur
Read it again. Drink it in. Mauricio Pochettino has left Tottenham Hotspur. Even in the midst of their worst run of form since the Argentine arrived in north London, Daniel Levy's decision to sack to him brought the footballing world to a halt. Tottenham's website literally crashed due to the sheer amount of traffic it was getting. It is a decision that has stunned fans of the club, prompting heartfelt thank you posts on social media to the best manager they have ever had. It is also a decision that poses three main questions.
Firstly: Why? (And why now?)
The short answer is 'look at the league table'. They've lost more games than they've won this season and currently sit in 14th. Their form this season, and this calendar year, has been nothing short of awful.
A run to the Champions League final - a run that provided many Spurs fans with their happiest living memory - papered over widening cracks in the squad. Senior players were angling for a move, the squad was getting older, the core of the team that went close to the winning the Premier League title in Pochettino's second and third seasons at the club had all but perished and as a result, form suffered.
The timing also seems odd. An international break is not an unusual time to sack a manager, but right before the players return for club duty, leaving yourself little time to find a replacement? The timing paints the picture of a rash decision, made in a panic.
Are these problems a result of Pochettino's management, or Levy's ownership?
It would be harsh to blame Pochettino for the contract situations of senior players at the club, rather than the man responsible for negotiating those contracts, given the extent to which Pochettino's Spurs have punched above their weight in recent years. The manager will have been well aware of the problems that an ageing squad posed long before it got to this point. He knew better than anyone that the squad needed rejuvenating two years ago, but made do with the tools at his disposal, keeping Spurs in the top four - Levy's main aim to ensure the financial sustainability of the club after moving into a new multi-billion pound stadium.
But while the current slide down the league table shouldn't be blamed on Pochettino entirely, it is happening nonetheless. This is the situation they are in now and Levy had a decision to make. Evidently, he did not believe Pochettino had it in him to salvage this season. Perhaps he thought Pochettino did not have the mental endurance, the fire in the belly needed to repeat the same miracles he performed in this team's first cycle.
And fair enough. But, What now?
Sacking Pochettino might look like the first step to getting the club back on track, mid-season sackings often do nothing to stop the rot. Clubs in the bottom half can hire a firefighter. Get Big Sam in, come 17th, wash your hands of him and go again. Spurs are above that. they're not Everton.
In the long-term, Eddie Howe seems like the ideal candidate. Having earned his stripes at Bournemouth and consolidating their position in the Premier League, all the while playing an expansive brand of football that Spurs fans would welcome with open arms, it is the next logical step for everyone involved.
But in the short-term? José Mourinho is out of work, and being heavily linked with the job. The Portuguese has been on the charm offensive in recent months, appearing on Super Sunday and putting his peers to shame with enlightening analysis. But his most recent stint at Manchester United, the style of football and the toxicity that quickly filled Old Trafford should act as a big red flag for Daniel Levy.
It is nigh on impossible to predict Levy's next move. But it feels like the sacking of Pochettino is a knee jerk reaction that he may come to regret.