West Ham vs Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino faces a cup final of his own

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 22 September 2017, 11:04

MAURICIO POCHETTINO faces a short trip across London tomorrow but it’s one which could define his time as manager of Tottenham.

For years Spurs fans have taunted West Ham fans that a game between the two arch-rivals is the Hammer’s cup final.

If so then Tottenham have gone home with runners-up medals in the last two having crumbled with devastating effect each time.

Last May Manuel Lanzini’s matchwinner effectively ended Tottenham’s title ambitions as yet again they came up short.

The year before an early goal from Michail Antonio had a similar consequence. Victory would have sent Spurs top of the Premier League for the first time as they chased Leicester for the crown.

They fell to pieces that night with visible frailty and Pochettino vowed his young team would learn from it.

They didn’t and found themselves done over again by a far inferior team with much less to lose than ambitious Spurs.

There is no doubt that Tottenham are way ahead of West Ham in terms of team-building and aspirations. But that doesn’t count for everything.

Back then Pochettino could rely on fortress White Hart Lane to back him up with the points required to make a genuine push for a first Premier League title for him and the club.

Last year second place and no defeats at home. The year before only three. White Hart Lane was as close to a fortress as you can genuinely get these days in the era of quiet all-seater stadia.

But now Pochettino must contend with the added weight of playing at Wembley while White Hart Lane is redeveloped and so far it’s proved difficult to say the least.

Three Premier League games at their temporary home and not a win.

So there’s luxury on the road whatsoever. Those points to challenge Manchester City and Manchester United have got to be dug out from somewhere and Wembley doesn’t seem to be the place.

And in a year when Pochettino must answer those who think he is a good but not a great coach he is under pressure like never before.

After two exciting, impressive but ultimately failed seasons of pushing to become champions of England this is the year Pochettino has to strike gold, or at least silver in the shape of a major trophy.

If he does then he can be classed as a great coach. One that has built Spurs up from scratch and turned them into proper contenders.

If he doesn’t then there will be serious questions asked about his ability to go all the way with a team in the most competitive league in the world.

The fact that it might be down to the wide open spaces of Wembley, like those they will face at London Stadium tomorrow, will not matter a jot.

It is always the manager’s fault and it is always the manager who pays the price for it.

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