It hasn’t taken much to darken Mauricio Pochettino’s mood of late.
Indeed, the Argentine has made for a difficult interview subject in recent times, furrowing his brow and folding his arms on a number of topics. The Tottenham Hotspur manager wasn’t in a much better mood having watched his side throw away two points in the Champions League.
Having gone 2-0 up after 30 minutes, Spurs should have been in a position to see out a victory away to Olympiacos in their opening Champions League group game of the season.
Instead, they were pegged back by opponents who should have caused Pochettino and his players very few problems.
“I think it’s easy to explain,” Pochettino said while simmering in front of the press. “When we are not showing that intensity that the competition demands we struggle. We are not talking about quality. We’re talking about being focused, concentrated, aggressive, anticipating the action.
“How many times did we anticipate today? How many times we were not proactive like we were against Palace. That is a very good example in three days, it’s a massive difference. It’s not about tactics, it’s not about quality players, it’s about the quality of preparing yourself to be ready to fight.”
These were not the remarks of a manager happy with the spirit of his team.
This wasn’t the first time Pochettino has publicly criticised the character of his players. In fact, it’s just a few weeks since the 47-year-old accused his side of lacking unity and desire after a damaging home defeat to Newcastle United.
“This type of situation happens in the Premier League,” he explained at the time, stewing in understated rage.
“That is why you need to create a very good dynamic and strong team bonding and, at the moment, that situation in our group is still far, far away. The group is still unsettled and we need to find solutions.”
It’s certainly true that Spurs are not presently playing like a group of players all pulling in the same direction. Saturday’s demolition of Crystal Palace in their first match after the international break hinted that the struggles of the early part of the season had been left behind.
Wednesday’s collapse in Greece saw many familiar issues arise again.
This is surely concerning for all associated with the North London club. Pochettino has moulded Spurs in their present-day form.
He has exerted more influence over Tottenham than any other manager has over any other top six Premier League club. Consequently, Spurs are a reflection of their manager’s identity.
Never before has that been truer than it is now. Tottenham’s recent performances have been as changeable as the mood of their manager.
From the outside, Pochettino’s relationship with his own players has seemed somewhat strained over the past few weeks.
Could it be that a divide is opening up in the dressing room?
Whatever it is, something’s not quite right at Spurs. Last season, Pochettino waged war with Daniel Levy through the media, but there was at least an obvious ploy to such remarks.
The Argentine had significant leverage having established Tottenham as a top-four club over the past few years, even reaching a Champions League final, and so he knew fans would back him to squeeze some transfer budget out of Levy.
Now, however, it’s tougher to work out the underlying motive to Pochettino’s recent comments and behaviour.
Of course, the Argentine has earned the right to motivate his squad in whichever way he sees fit. He knows them better than anyone else, after all.
But, results like the ones suffered against Newcastle and Olympiacos suggest Pochettino has lost something.
Increasingly, it feels like that something is the commitment of his players.