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What if Mauricio Pochettino became Bayern Munich’s next manager?

We asked Dustin Menno of Cartilage Free Captain a few questions about the Argentinian.

Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final

Well, if you’ve been keeping up with rumors during this (frankly boring) international break, then you’ll know that Bayern Munich have been heavily linked to Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino. Now, while we’ve regularly discussed the reliability (or lack thereof) of these rumors, we haven’t actually addressed the more important question.

Would Pochettino actually be a good manager for Bayern Munich?

To get to the bottom of this, we at BFW asked our friend Dustin Menno over on Cartilage Free Captain to answer a few questions about Poch. We hope you’ll find his answers as enlightening as we did.

1. What is Pochettino’s style of play - formations, tactics, setup, rotation, etc.? If given a squad like Bayern Munich’s, what could he achieve (we’re talking Champions League here)?

Pochettino favors a 4-2-3-1 formation, though he has experimented with a 4-3-3 at times in the past couple of years. While his tactics can vary slightly based on the personnel available, you can always expect a Pochettino-managed side to play attacking football with a high press. Spurs players are relentlessly drilled in the preseason and his sides are among, if not the, fittest teams in the Premier League.

Tottenham Hotspur v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Spurs’ first Champions League knockout tie in a long while, courtesy of Poch.
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

They work relentlessly to harry midfielders and defenders and try to win the ball back in dangerous positions. Spurs can be ruthless on the counterattack, but it’s not uncommon to see Spurs have huge advantages in possession over their opponents as they often face bunkered defenses.

Spurs’ attackers are positionally fluid, with the wide midfielders frequently cutting inside to shoot and swapping positions with ease, which makes them difficult to defend as they’re constantly trying to draw defenders out of position. Harry Kane also frequently drops deeper into midfield to hold up the ball and play others into space. Width is provided by the wing backs, who are generally given license to push forward and put in crosses from the wings.

If I’m honest, and considering the other clubs that are rumored to be interested in Pochettino, Bayern is the big club with whom Poch would best be able to implement his philosophy of the game. At the very top, success becomes a matter of degrees. Were he to go to Bayern, Poch would inherit a very good squad with immense buying power and at worst a mild familiarity with what he’s already doing. He could do amazing things at Bayern. I hope this doesn’t happen.

2. Poch hasn’t actually won anything in his tenure at Tottenham. What’s prevented that from happening? Should Bayern Munich fans be worried?

The main reason why Poch hasn’t won anything at Tottenham is simply this: winning things is hard. The cups are the cups — they’re more or less crap-shoots. The league is even tougher, as (this season’s Manchester City excluded) there’s a huge amount of parity between the top six clubs in England.

What Poch has managed to do is take a club that has for the better part of the past two decades been a mid-table English side and, without the benefit of petro-dollars, turn them into league contenders. That’s huge. The “winning things” concern-trolling generally pisses me off because it completely overshadows the fact that Spurs have made the Champions League two years running, and finished in the top five seven out of the past eight seasons, all while running far behind their competitors in finances and player wages. That cannot be overstated. Give Poch keys to the kingdom and put him in the right club in the right circumstance and he could do amazing things.

3. Has Poch ever been known to butt heads with management or target specific players in the transfer market?

Pochettino has had the benefit of excellent relations with club ownership at Spurs and his last club, Southampton. He repeatedly talks about his good relationship with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, and the two are a good match.

Poch is exceptionally loyal. He only left Southampton when he did because the owner who brought him in left the club, and he was loyal to him. However, loyalty is a two-way street and Poch would probably have no compunction about leaving if he doesn’t feel valued or if he’s not getting along with management.

If Pochettino has a weakness or a blind spot at Tottenham, it’s in recruitment. Poch doesn’t really have a robust scouting setup in place at Spurs and likes to have full control over incoming player transfers. Sometimes that works, but we’ve gotten the sense that Spurs have missed some really good targets because the club isn’t looking in the right place, or Poch has his eye on one particular player that he wants.

The good news is that he’s a manager who has a proven track record of developing youth and promising young players. That’s a mark in his favor, and we’ve seen him use it to great effect at Spurs, from Harry Kane to Dele Alli to Eric Dier.

4. Carlo Ancelotti’s inability to communicate adequately with the players led to his demise. How has Poch been on that front? Is he known as a great communicator?

Arsenal FC v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
According to Mats Hummels, Carlo Ancelotti’s biggest problem was his failure to articulate himself in German.
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Poch’s biggest weakness, at least with the media, has been the fact that he’s not a native English speaker. He used a translator at Southampton, but has been speaking English since he came to Spurs. The language barrier is slowly becoming less of an issue, but he’d be essentially starting over in German should he go to Bayern. I hear tell that’s an issue with the Bayern leadership?

That said, I haven’t gotten the sense that he’s had any difficulty communicating with his players. The key players in Tottenham’s squad absolutely LOVE him and would run through a brick wall for him. The issue is more that he’s got a “my way or the highway” attitude about his system and tactics, and we have seen a number of instances of players that were marginalized and later sold if they didn’t buy into what he wants to do. Among the staff at Cartilage Free Captain, we joke that Poch is essentially a “cult leader.” The players that join the cult are the ones that reap the benefits of his management. Those that don’t will eventually be offloaded.

5. How would Poch deal with the limitations at Bayern - injuries, media speculation, big egos? Is he a manager with a singular “vision” like Pep Guardiola or a pragmatist?

Oh, he’s definitely a “vision” guy, with a very distinct system that he likes to run. He has successfully remade all three of the clubs he has managed into winners using this system, and wherever his next club is (assuming he doesn’t stay at Tottenham forever) he’ll do the same. As I mentioned above, he’ll demand that his players play his system. If they don’t, they’ll soon be gone.

Poch isn’t combative with the media and doesn’t really try to play mind games or stir up trouble with comments. If he’s ticked off about something he may mention it, but he’s no Jose Mourinho. He’s respectful, warm, genuine, and friendly. He’s almost universally loved.

All of the above said, Poch is also not the kind of manager to go chasing a paycheck. He won’t leave Spurs just because he can get paid more at another club. He’s ambitious, but he wants to build things, not (just) make millions. He’s regularly referred to Tottenham Hotspur as a “project,” and would carefully consider what kind of situation he is walking into. As long as he’s happy at Spurs and thinks he can succeed there, he’ll stay there.

With Spurs opening a new stadium that will be among the best in Europe next season and with a team that is improving every season, I would be shocked if he leaves Tottenham for any club this summer unless things really take a southward turn in the near future. However, clubs with a history of stability like Bayern and PSG could tempt him away eventually. That’s enough to make Spurs fans nervous.

Well, there you have it. What do you think about Pochettino now? Let us know in the comments.


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