Pochettino’s right: top four, Champions League do matter more than FA Cup

Some folks are annoyed that after being eliminated from the FA Cup at the hands of Crystal Palace, Mauricio Pochettino was brutally honest about his Tottenham side. “We are going to create a debate that to win a trophy is going to help the club … I don’t agree with that,” he said. “That only builds your ego. In reality, the most important thing is being consistently in the top four and playing in the Champions League.”

Let’s get this part out of the way first. Yes, he fielded an under-strength team against Palace, leaving out guys like Harry Winks, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld. But, guess what? So did Palace. One of their central defenders (Scott Dann) has played as much Premier League football as Pew Die Pie this season. The other (Martin Kelly) made three league starts all year. Another defender (Joel Ward) made one start this season and that was in August. Oh, and at center-forward was Connor Wickham, who hadn’t scored since 2016.

So call this game for what it was: two teams with other priorities (Palace are three points above the drop) fielding under-strength sides. And still, Spurs missed a penalty and a gilt-edged Georges-Kevin Nkoudou chance in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat.

You can’t really accuse Pochettino of snubbing cup competitions when, 72 hours earlier, his team were only knocked out of a League Cup semifinal on penalties. Or when they reached the semifinal of the FA Cup in the past two seasons. Right now, this is a team without Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, with Chelsea four points back (and with a trip to Stamford Bridge later this month) and Manchester United behind them winning eight in a row.

In two weeks, Tottenham have a round of 16 game against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. But you want Pochettino to treat Palace away like a World Cup final?

No? Then what? You want him to come out with lies and platitudes and nonsense instead?


Pochettino spoke the truth. The last Tottenham manager to win a trophy was Juande Ramos. Boy, that really moved the needle in the club’s history, didn’t it? Oh, and by the way, the old trope whereby Pochettino can’t be any good because he hasn’t won anything is nonsense, too. You don’t judge managers who are so under-resourced, relative to the competition, based on a crapshoot like a knockout competition. You judge them on whether they out-perform their resources — and that’s before you get into the economic argument.

The simple fact is that the FA Cup prize money is £6.6 million, whereas getting to the round of 16 of the Champions League can net you anywhere between £40m and £60m. And that excludes box office receipts and the sponsorship money and prestige the greater visibility affords you.

If you want to criticize Pochettino, there are plenty of reasons to do it. This is not one of them. If anything, we ought to be appreciative of a guy who didn’t talk down to the fans.

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