EPL

Mauricio Pochettino says the Premier League’s identity is changing

By Sports Desk September 16, 2023

Mauricio Pochettino is saddened by some of changes he has witnessed in English football, believing a move towards a more technical way of playing costing the Premier League some of its identity.

The manager is in his sixth full season working in England since being appointed at Southampton midway through the 2012-13 season.

He stabilised relegation-threatened Saints and pulled them clear of the drop zone before helping establishing them in the top flight the following year.

At his next job, Tottenham, he transformed the club from perennial underachievers into regular Champions League qualifiers and took them to the final in 2019, losing 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid.

He is working his first Premier League job since being sacked by Spurs in November of that year, and is tasked with turning around Chelsea’s fortunes after a wretched campaign last season that saw them finish 12th.

The value and commercial appeal of England’s top flight has grown hugely since Pochettino replaced Nigel Adkins at St. Mary’s more than a decade ago, with the appeal and financial incentive on offer to foreign stars greater than ever.

It has influenced English football to move away from some of its traditional habits, typically thought to have been centred around stamina and physicality.

“It’s true that the Premier League is different from when we arrived at Southampton (in 2013),” said Pochettino, who takes his team to face Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday looking for only their second league win of the season.

“Improved? Yes. Every season it improves, because the potential of the Premier League to sign players from everywhere has made the teams stronger.

“But it’s true that it loses a little bit of the identity of British football, or English football. Being honest, I like (it) of course, because as coaching staff we love to play in this way.

“English football always was about to fight. But to play good football in (a) different way also is to play well, because if you want to play in a different way, you need to be clever also in how you decide a philosophy and structure of the team.”

The Premier League had only 13 foreign players – not English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish – when it was launched in 1992.

The influx of players, and just as significantly managers, from overseas has seen the league grow to resemble a more technical style previously associated with Spain, Italy and other European leagues.

Pochettino added: “Losing this type of identity I think made me a little bit sad because always in my head it was different football in England, that is true.

“People want more spectacular, more things like this. Of course, that is the evolution of society. People ask for different demands, different things, and we are adapting. Football is adapting.”

Pochettino repeated his call for Chelsea’s young squad – the youngest in the league with an average age of just over 23 – to be afforded the time they need to grow into themselves following co-owner Todd Boehly’s whirlwind £1billion recruitment drive.

He cited one famous example of a player bought for big money who took time to come good.

“It’s not fair to assess one game, two games, three games; (a player) is not performing when we play someone and say ‘they need to perform like this’.

“I always use the same example. Real Madrid paid 70, 80, 100 million for one player, Zinedine Zidane.

“After six months you can ask the fans of Real Madrid. He started to perform after seven, eight months. Zidane was 26, 27.

“When you bring in a player who is 18 or 19 or 20 or 21, be careful. They are not machines. They need to settle. We need to give time.”

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