Tottenham 2-7 Bayern Munich: Mauricio Pochettino faces crisis

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham conceded seven goals at home for the first time ever

Mauricio Pochettino has become an expert in mixed messages for much of the past few months, but there was no disguising the meaning of this abject Champions League humiliation for Tottenham's manager.

This was the most embarrassing result since he arrived at Spurs in May 2014. If you were being cruel you would say it was the most embarrassing for seven days after they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by League Two Colchester United.

The word "crisis" can be over-used but, in this current context, this is what Pochettino now faces after Spurs were thrashed 7-2 in their own palatial new home by Bayern Munich. He is certainly facing the most searching questions of his Spurs career and they must be answered quickly.

Bayern's margin of victory was bad enough - the first time Spurs have conceded seven goals at home in a major competition - but the pitiful manner of the capitulation made this an even more harrowing experience for Pochettino and his players.

And the lack of response to adversity, the wild tactical naivety that left Bayern with wide open spaces they exploited ruthlessly by inflicting this punishment, means fingers must arguably be pointed in the direction of Pochettino as much as his players.

Pochettino is loved by Spurs fans, taking them on that remarkable ride to their first Champions League final, where they lost to Liverpool, in Madrid in June.

The problem is, such affection only lasts so long and the chorus of jeers from those who remained inside the vast sweep of this magnificent stadium will have struck an ominous note.

Spurs, ironically, were excellent for 35 minutes and much hinged on Robert Lewandowski's magnificent finish on the stroke of half-time that gave Bayern a 2-1 advantage.

It was the lack of response, the lack of heart, fight and inspiration that will raise the alarm for Pochettino and chairman Daniel Levy, who offered a smile through gritted teeth to his Bayern counterparts at the final whistle.

What this desperate display means for Pochettino in the longer term remains to be seen, but make no mistake, this is a club and a manager in trouble. No other realistic conclusion can be drawn from the wreckage of this night.

It looked like the clouds had lifted after a battling win with 10 men against Southampton on Saturday but the thunder and lightning that rolled around the stadium before kick-off was symbolic of the night that lay ahead for Pochettino and Spurs.

By the final whistle, as Bayern reached seven and actually threatened to add more, the stadium was largely deserted, Spurs were a stretched-out rabble and Pochettino cut a haunted figure.

They failed to react to the blows inflicted upon them by Bayern. They accepted them with a total lack of resistance. It suggested this is a team in serious need of renewal, a squad needing a freshening of minds and bodies, and a manager in the deepest trouble of his time in north London.

Spurs will rightly point to the fact that they lost their first two Champions League group games and reached the final last season, but they were nothing like this. This will have been a shock to the system that reverberated from the pitch to the boardroom.

This was the greatest margin of defeat for any English team at home in European competition. There is no good news there.

It was not meant to be like this. Spurs were at the top table in Madrid in June. Here they were swept aside and did not even have the heart to mount a damage-limitation exercise.

Spurs and Pochettino are now at the crossroads and the coming days will be decisive in defining their direction.

There has been something not quite right about Pochettino and Spurs since that Champions League final and every little fault and flaw was clinically exposed by Bayern on the stage that gave Tottenham so much glory last season.

Pochettino has been at the club more than five years and there is a stale look about the team, with Christian Eriksen almost at Spurs under sufferance after failing to get a summer move. Long-time defensive pairing Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are in the final years of their contracts.

Those two fine servants were made to look their age by the lightning pace of former Arsenal forward Serge Gnabry, who twisted Alderweireld inside out for one goal and outpaced Vertonghen with embarrassing ease to score another.

The fact it was an ex-Gunner in Gnabry, who did not make the grade at Emirates Stadium and could barely get a game on loan at West Brom, who emerged as their tormentor in chief with four goals only added another layer of pain on this dismal, rain-sodden night.

Pochettino has credit in the bank. It must not be forgotten what he achieved last season without being able to work the transfer market, and he can claim with some justification that this current malaise is the result of some players spending too long at the club and an inability to freshen up his squad with new faces as cash was held back and a new stadium constructed.

If there is blame to be apportioned, it is not all directed at him.

Yet when he spoke about players with "different agendas" after the loss to Colchester it almost begged questions about a lack of unity in the Spurs squad - and there was certainly a shortage of character and resilience when it all started to go wrong against Bayern.

Yes, the first 35 minutes were excellent, but that does not even count as a fig leaf when you have conceded seven goals at home in Europe's elite competition. Nothing can hide that embarrassment.

Pochettino is one of the most coveted managers in Europe, linked regularly with Real Madrid, and his personal and professional pride will be badly wounded by this experience.

For all the goodwill, for all that credit in the bank, Pochettino knows the rules and he is now under greater pressure than at any time since he walked into the old White Hart Lane.


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