News out of North London shook the world of football last night; just as the November international break was ending, and attentions were beginning to turn back to club action. Tottenham Hotspur said goodbye to manager Mauricio Pochettino after five-and-a-half years, and less than six months since he guided them to their only Champions League final in club history.
It’s a bittersweet day for the club, no doubt, as Poch oversaw some of the best football the Spurs had seen in decades. But the Premier League waits for no man, and Spurs have been consistently mediocre-to-bad in the league for nearly a year. They currently sit mired in 14th place, behind Newcastle by a point, and only ahead of Everton on goal differential. Indeed, that rather understates their difficulties: they’re 6 points above the drop, and 11 behind Manchester City in 4th place.
Liverpool’s old foil Jose Mourinho has already been appointed to come in and right the ship, so clearly the club had a plan to make the change as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Of course, this is all Tottenham’s business. Liverpool are in the midst of their own lofty ambitions. But Tottenham, especially by bringing in a quality manager such as Mourinho to right the ship, could play a substantial role in swaying the title one way or another.
Say what you will about Mourinho: the manager has proven himself more than capable of being the short-term solution for many a side. And we know he loves nothing more than upsetting the apple cart, especially against Liverpool.
If Mourinho and Spurs wish to play a part in who gets crowned champions at the end of the season, they will have ample opportunity to do so.
Tottenham’s matches against the current Top 4 are as follows:
- December 22nd: Chelsea (H)
- January 11th: Liverpool (H)
- February 1st: Manchester City (H)
- February 22nd: Chelsea (A)
- May 5th: Leicester City (H)
There are three interesting things to note: 1) they have yet to play Chelsea, 2) they play Chelsea (twice), Liverpool, and Manchester City in (relatively) short order, 3) 4 of these 5 matches are at home.
If there is a “new manager bounce,” which is often less about the manager and more often about a reversion to the mean, Tottenham will have a chance to lay a glove or two on the sides that everyone is chasing, including Liverpool. And as we know, Tottenham have the squad to lay a glove on just about anyone. Moreover, they’ll have home pitch advantage for most of these matches.
If Mourinho can get a strong start during a busy December, there’s also the outside chance that they can make a run at the Top 4.
It’s a long shot, for sure, but not impossible. Manchester City, Leicester, and Chelsea are all currently on pace for a high-70’s, low-80’s season. For Tottenham to get 75 points (usually enough for a Top 4 spot), they’ll need roughly 2.35 points per game. That’s generally title-winning from (in seasons where City and Liverpool haven’t set an impossibly, ridiculously high standard). It might not be enough. Though it might be, especially if Spurs get a big win or two against other Top 4 sides,
The point is that New Manager Bounce + Quality Manager + Favorable Schedule + Possibly Something to Play For = Some Tricky Fixtures For Top Sides.
Thankfully, Liverpool only have to prove themselves against Mou’s Tottenham side once. Unfortunately, it comes immediately after the busiest part of the season, in January when Klopp’s sides have struggled so frequently in the past.
It also comes at a time when any “new manager bounce” could still very much be in effect, as was the case against Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United last season. We all know just how crucial those two dropped points were last season.
I expect these Reds to be up to the challenge, but one thing is for sure: Poch’s firing and Mou’s hiring adds just a little bit more uncertainty into the proceedings.