Following Hugo Lloris’ hamstring injury on opening day, Mauricio Pochettino has an increasing lack of recovery time.
Mauricio Pochettino has condemned the football calendar as being completely incompatible with elite performance, saying that it was drawn up by people “who have never touched a football”.
Pochettino explained in great detail in his press conference on Thursday afternoon that there were too many pressures on club managers, who receive tired players back from international competitions in July, and then have to play in pre-season before resuming the Premier League in mid-August.
Spurs’ captain Hugo Lloris played in the Euro 2016 final on 10 July and then returned for Spurs’ opener at Goodison Park on 13 August, after just three weeks of rest and two weeks of pre-season training. In that opening 1-1 draw he pulled a hamstring muscle and had to be substituted for Michel Vorm. He will be out for one month.
Pochettino insisted on Thursday that Lloris’ injury was not because of his quick return to action. “It is not normal for the keeper to leave his position and run a lot,” he said. “It was an accident, it happens, and it was unrelated to the Euros.”
But when Pochettino was asked whether he was tempted to rest Lloris for longer after the Euros, he unleashed a diatribe about scheduling which made very clear what he thought of the circumstances. Modern coaches, he said, were put in an impossible position attempting to juggle the demands of international, domestic and pre-season football. Pochettino wants a re-think, and one drawn up by people who have played the game.
“The solution would be better if we discuss about how our bosses manage football,” Pochettino said. “The problem is the organisation of the competitions. You cannot play the Euros and start [the Premier League] on 13 August. How can you give rest to the players, after the whole season? You are in competition for 11 months. And the players, because you pay them good salaries, don’t deserve the holidays? Come on. They are not machines.”
Pochettino said that managers are always blamed for anything that goes wrong, even though they are operating in impossible circumstances because of the schedule. “Coaches need to be like we are in the circus, juggling,” he said. “All the pressure is on the managers. If you play a player who you don’t give holidays, and he gets injured, it’s your fault. If you rest him, and he doesn’t play, for the commercial side, you are guilty. Always it is the manager’s fault, always, always.”
Almost all of Spurs’ first team played until the latter stages of Euro 2016, meaning that they only had a few weeks of pre-season before the Everton match last Saturday. But Pochettino said it was very difficult to judge when they should return, because of the pressures for instant success in the Premier League.
“We try to avoid [injures] but to find the balance is always difficult,” Pochettino said. “If you give rest in training, and say ‘I don’t want to use this player that was involved in the Euros’, and then you have no positive results, then the media, the supporters and the board and the president kill me. There is nothing to win, only to lose. If you don’t win the game you are guilty.”
Pochettino’s teams are built on physical intensity but he said that is impossible to replicate with the players so busy every summer. “Our players are special athletes,” he said. “They need pre-season, they need to train properly, they need to rest, they need good food, it’s impossible to compete when the amount of competitions is very high. To be ready to compete they need time.”
Pointing to the example of Harry Kane, Pochettino said that his participation in the European Under-21 Championship in 2015 then Euro 2016 over the last two summers meant that he has not had a proper break since Pochettino took over at Spurs in 2014. Kane also played in the European Under-19 Championship in 2012 and the Under-20 World Cup in 2013. “Harry Kane, no holiday, no holiday. He plays in the U21s [European Championship] and then the Euros. He is not a machine.”