Pochettino’s kids are all right, says Neil Humphreys
Pochettino's kids should aim higher than top four
Mauricio Pochettino has pinched an old James Bond theme. At the moment, nobody does it better.
He's pulling off a revolution with a whisper. He's silently handing control to the kids.
The Tottenham manager is every thing Harry Redknapp wasn't at White Hart Lane and the Spurs faithful would do well to say a quiet prayer of thanks.
It's time to take Spurs seriously. The top four is the obvious target, but they would be unwise to limit their horizons.
Derby day slyly underlined the unexpected balance of power between the old enemies. On current form, a North London Best 11 might be overwhelmed with Tottenham's young terriers.
Defensively and offensively, a case could be made for Spurs' superiority and no one saw that coming, except Pochettino.
The unassuming Argentinian has assembled a youthful side that are short on weaknesses and easy on the eye.
The 1-1 draw with Arsenal yesterday morning (Singapore time) carried a sense of deja vu, with derby day overtaken by Groundhog Day. We've been here before, first with Espanyol and then with Southampton.
Pochettino fashions fast, high-pressing sides with neither fuss nor fanfare. Like the early morning dew, they seemingly appear overnight before dissipating when the rising manager moves on to pastures new.
But Pochettino has no reason to leave Tottenham now, not after demolishing Redknapp's legacy and rebuilding from scratch.
Like West Ham, Portsmouth and Queens Park Rangers, Redknapp left Spurs in a precarious state of superficial opulence, like a crumbling house barely held together by a gold-plated roof.
The odd Champions League outing propped up a house of cards that neither Andre Villas-Boas nor Tim Sherwood could repair.
Pochettino inherited an overpaid, underachieving squad, typified by the contemptuous indifference of Emmanuel Adebayor.
After 18 months of efficient pruning and weeding, his subtle ruthlessness is bearing fruit.
The lazy retirees and the driftwood were ushered out the back door, allowing the kids to come through the front door of the academy.
Against Arsenal, Tottenham's senior statesmen - Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele - were 28. No one else in the front six were older than 23.
At fullback, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are veterans. They are still only 25.
Rose, a left back considered erratic by Redknapp and infrequently used, has gone about his business without histrionics to become one of the best in the Premier League in his position.
His steady progress epitomises a side built in the manager's image. Pochettino's revolution is often mistaken for a gentle evolution because the man's unassuming personality can blur the radical process.
Redknapp talked a great game at White Hart Lane, but seldom played one. Pochettino says little, but changes a lot.
He's more interested in squad regeneration than well-worn sound-bites.
Manchester United throw in Jesse Lingard, Chelsea send on Kenedy and Arsenal resurrect a rough diamond in Francis Coquelin and headline writers gather around a cauldron of cliches to champion youth development.
Tottenham tore Arsenal apart with a couple of kids.
Dele Alli, 19, and Eric Dier, 21, left Santi Cazorla so dizzy he saw stars. So did everyone inside the Emirates Stadium.
Pochettino is putting together a constellation of bright young things in midfield, turning Christian Eriksen's endless potential into end product and even making Erik Lamela more than a Mohawk.
FAST AND FURIOUS
For 75 minutes at Arsenal, Tottenham were a privilege to watch, fast and furious and eager to please. They played without prejudice, as if their youth elevated the risk-taking.
Three games in seven days took their toll in the game's dying moments, but Spurs had already penned an assured statement of intent by then.
The fullbacks flew. The kids in central midfield laid siege and Dembele finally waved the conductor's baton he's always craved with real authority as they pressed high. They surged towards the funnel, the one where all routes lead to goal: the one that leads to Harry Kane.
He can't stop scoring. Nor will he. He's gorging at Tottenham's buffet.
Suddenly, extraordinarily, it's hard to find fault lines. Cracks are hard to come by.
The back four match the front four in their solidity and the double act in central midfield are proving to be stubborn, immovable objects. Lloris may not be immune to the odd error, but Kane is likely to outscore whatever Tottenham concede.
Without drawing attention to his handiwork, Pochettino has emerged as a fledgling contender for Manager of the Season. But he'll be unable to escape the spotlight now. His nascent stars shine too brightly.
And, if they sustain their early promise, they should set their sights a little higher than the top four.
KYLE WALKER, 25
His manager has finally drawn from that deep well of potential. Walker's pace was never in doubt previously, only his consistency. And he has already succeeded where others failed - he took care of Alexis Sanchez.
DANNY ROSE, 25
When he scored one of the great debut goals against Arsenal in 2010, the left back looked ready to set White Hart Lane on fire. But he drifted away until Mauricio Pochettino gave him an integral role in his high-pressing approach.
ERIC DIER, 21
Steven Gerrard's retirement from England was impeccably timed. Pochettino has done his National Service for his adopted country by grooming Gerrard's successor. If his career continues along its upward trajectory, Dier will govern England's central midfield.
DELE ALLI, 19
He's English, he's 19 and when he went off at half-time, he found Santi Cazorla in his pocket. Watching in the stands, Roy Hodgson must have thought Christmas had come early. Managers are hailed for handing an anchoring role to a youngster. Pochettino has given the keys to central midfield to a couple of kids.
CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN, 23
Andre Villas-Boas signed him, but failed to make the most of him. At times, the manager wasn't even sure of his position. Under Pochettino, Eriksen has clear responsibilities on the left side of an attacking trio. So far, he's delivering.
HARRY KANE, 22
Previous Tottenham managers have formed a disorderly queue to take credit for the boy, but Pochettino turned him into a man. Kane is England's only complete centre forward. Every goal and dominant performance further embarrasses his country's manager and captain. Hodgson and Wayne Rooney still believe in each other. Everyone else believes in Kane.
Cracking North london derby. whatever the result, there is no doubt in my mind that Spurs are on the right track with Pochettino.
— Former England and Spurs striker Gary Lineker
I tip Tottenham to get into the top four this season, and that’s not because of my allegiance to them. I really believe in what Pochettino is doing there.
— Former Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel
“It shows that we can be up there with the big teams. we’re playing very well, we’re got great belief and we’ve just got to keep trying to move up that table.”
— Harry Kane, on Tottenham’s 11-match unbeaten run