Tottenham Hotspur have had to cope with the unwanted attention manager Mauricio Pochettino has received this week in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s sacking with the Argentine now favourite to be Manchester United’s next permanent manager.
Pochettino has enough to contend with in his current job over the next 10 days with Spurs facing four winnable fixtures, starting at Everton on Sunday, that could propel them into the title race or limit ambitions to a top-four finish for a fourth straight season.
After Liverpool’s win over Wolves on Friday, Tottenham trail the leaders by nine points and second-placed Manchester City by five.
Yet, with Liverpool facing a tough run of festive fixtures with Arsenal at home on December 29 followed by a trip to City on January 3, there could be a chance for Spurs to cut the gap as they also face Bournemouth, Wolves and Cardiff before New Year’s Day.
To do so, though, Pochettino will need to continue getting the maximum from a squad that remains alive in four competitions despite being ravaged by injuries to many of their World Cup stars, coupled with the lack of any summer signings.
“The most important thing is the belief,” said Pochettino ahead of the trip to Goodison Park.
“It’s difficult to translate to the fans or to the media the genuine belief in the squad.
“Of course, all the names and players are very important but after that it’s about the squad, about the collective, about the team.”
The trust Pochettino has in his players is a principal reason why he is so coveted, not just by United, but also by European champions Real Madrid.
However, his failure to so far deliver a trophy in over four years at Tottenham has put added onus on success in the League Cup this season.
Stadium draining funds
Spurs gained revenge on north London rivals Arsenal for a recent derby defeat in the league on Wednesday to progress to the last four.
However, that means after four games in 10 days over the festive period, Pochettino’s men could face a further seven games in January should they avoid a shock defeat to Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup.
“If we want to achieve in the end a trophy or arrive in the top four or do a fantastic job in the Champions League or the different cups, we need everyone to be committed to the team,” Pochettino said.
The question remains how far that commitment can carry them and whether this season will be their last chance for success under Pochettino.
The club expect to finally be able to open their heavily-delayed new stadium early in the new year, but the spiralling costs of completing their 62,000 capacity home means Pochettino is unlikely to be handed funds to spend reinforcing in January.
Instead, young players like 18-year-old Oliver Skipp, who made his Premier League debut against Burnley last weekend, will be used to plug the gaps.
Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen are not expected to return from injury before January, while Davinson Sanchez remains a doubt meaning left-back Ben Davies could start for the third straight game in central defence.
“Some players are not available to play because they are injured or because they need to rest because they are tired,” added Pochettino.
“(But) if you really believe, how we believe in our squad, you can do a great job.”
The fear for Tottenham is that Pochettino has now done too good a job for too long to go unnoticed.