Pochettino verdict on Tottenham return as pressure on Conte rises

Tottenham may soon be looking for a new manager to replace Antonio Conte if their current slump in form continues for much longer. The north Londoners were dismal in the 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa on Sunday, which came a few days after another uninspiring showing in their 2-2 draw with Brentford.

Supporters are growing impatient with the turgid, slow-paced football on show, and the Spurs players were roundly booed off the pitch in their first match in front of the home faithful since the World Cup after deservedly losing to Villa.

It remains to be seen whether Conte can turn things around – but if not, it may come as no surprise if chairman Daniel Levy targets Mauricio Pochettino for a second stint. The Argentinean was a hugely popular figure during a five-and-a-half year spell at Spurs between 2014-2019, securing regular top four finishes and even taking his side to the Champions League final in his last full season before agonisingly losing to Liverpool.

Some may debate whether the 50-year-old would relish returning to work under Levy again, especially given the fact that the squad is now arguably weaker than the one he left behind. But having been asked on a number of occasions if he would be tempted by an emotional second spell at Tottenham, Pochettino has hinted that he feels he has unfinished business to attend to.

Speaking to talkSPORT as recently as December, Pochettino said: “I miss the Premier League. Why not (return to manage in England)? We are open. I love England, I love living in London and Barcelona. And of course if that possibility (to return) appears for sure we will consider taking it.”

Pochettino has also stressed on a number of occasions that he has no hard feelings about being sacked by Spurs in 2019 and replaced by Jose Mourinho, underlining his undying love for the club.

Speaking to Rio Ferdinand in an interview for BT Sport in March, he reflected: “For me, it was an amazing journey, amazing time. I still feel that it’s my club, my place. I think when you really feel with the commitment and when you feel the people give everything to try to be successful, and they treat you really, really good how they treat us, it’s impossible to forget that.

But it is after those two games where things get really difficult. The Lilywhites host their bitter rivals high-flying Arsenal on January 15 before taking on Manchester City four days later. They then have another London derby against Fulham before playing the reverse fixture against City, and also play AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie not long after.

It is up for debate whether Conte will still be in the dugout by the time the Milan match rolls around, but if he does go then Pochettino will be one of the strong favourites to take his place in what would be a hugely poignant appointment.