Use Football Manager 2022 to select the next Pochettino team

With Mauricio Pochettino on the verge of leaving Paris Saint-Germain, Athletic The book put forward various arguments to discuss where he should go next. Then we decided to use Football Manager 2022 to take it a step further.

The six teams selected are Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Athletic Bilbao. With that in mind, it’s time to find out which of these clubs represents the best fit.

To reflect the current state of play and make things as realistic as possible in our Experience series, in-game adjustments have been made to take into account promotions, relegations, recent transfers, and how much the aforementioned teams may be spending this summer at the time of writing.


Arsenal

Sol Campbell once left Tottenham to join Arsenal in 2001. The defender was not popular with Tottenham fans then, but the six titles he won under Arsene Wenger were somewhat of a payback. If Pochettino one day joins his former club’s biggest rival, winning trophies is the only thing that could make ruining his relationship with Spurs supporters worthwhile.

Despite us giving Arsenal an increased transfer budget to account for the money they could spend on a new striker, Pochettino opted to sign Takumi Minamino from Liverpool and rely heavily on Eddie Nketiah. His frugal approach to the transfer market has proven fatal. After seven matches, Arsenal finished 17th and were already in great danger of losing the top four. A few months later, he was fired.

That would be great news for Spurs fans under normal circumstances, but Antonio Conte was let go on the same day Pochettino received his orders to march. December 18 was one of the most exciting days in the history of the two clubs in North London. They both wanted to outdo each other and both failed miserably.

Arsenal were 10th when Pochettino was let go, while Tottenham were 12th. Pochettino’s failure to recruit properly in the transfer window contributed to one of the worst moving moves in Premier League history. Shortly after his expulsion, Oxford Dictionary began showing a picture of Pochettino holding an Arsenal shirt whenever someone searched for the word “disaster”.

FM22 Pochettino sacked at Arsenal


Chelsea

With Romelu Lukaku’s return to Inter, there was a hole to fill in Chelsea’s attacking line. Raheem Sterling is a transfer target in real life but this deal has yet to be made. In our FM22 experience, Pochettino chose not to sign with anyone, even after we sweetened the pot to make the club’s starter transfer budget larger to replicate the level of spending we might see under new owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake.

It turns out he’s had a plan up his sleeve the whole time. The Argentine managed to unleash Kai Havertz’s full potential, and the Germany international finished the season as the Premier League’s top scorer with 26 goals in 38 matches. Pochettino’s side “only” finished 11 points behind league leaders Manchester City to secure them third, but the real story of Chelsea’s season was Havertz’s development.

Pochettino in Chelsea FM22 Havertz

If that were true, Havertz’s 26 Premier League goals and 29 goals in all competitions would be the best return from a Chelsea player since Didier Drogba managed 33 in 2006-07. Regardless, Pochettino’s first season in West London was without any titles and is largely forgettable.

The former Tottenham boss insisted on using the 4-2-3-1 method, a tactic that became his trademark dating back to his time at Espanyol in 2009, that produced the kind of results that have left the club stuck at the top. – Intermediate level: Too good to not break out of the top four but still far from contending for the title.

At least he wasn’t fired a week before Christmas.


Lister

This was my personal choice for Pochettino. Leicester’s mixture of promising young talent and established players in the Premier League combined with an environment as not as demanding as PSG is the perfect revenge job for them. On paper, at least, it seemed like reasonable logic.

At FM22, it was an entirely different story. Pochettino lasted until mid-January before receiving his second sack in three test rounds. Leicester was 11th when he left and didn’t go anywhere quickly. So where did the error occur?

FM22 Pochettino stats Leicester

James Madison broke his ankle in early December, and after that, Leicester won only three of their next eight league games. Jamie Vardy was significantly out of his game, Wesley Fofana struggled to adapt to Pochettino’s new regime, and Harvey Barnes has only scored once all season.

In my defence, the selling point of this role has been the ability to get at least a few seasons to renew the squad while working on the cusp of not having very high expectations but still having a team that is expected to push to get the Europa League as minimal as possible.

I’m still sticking with that choice, but the algorithms on the FM22 seem to have plans to remove the time element that made Leicester an interesting choice in the first place.

FM22 Pochettino sacked Leicester


Borussia Dortmund

Directed by Erling Haaland, Karim Adeymi, Niklas Sole, Niko Schlutterbeek and Salih Özkan. Whether or not Dortmund’s summer spending ends remains to be seen but at the time of this experiment, these were the new players Pochettino had to work with as he began his German football adventure.

December appears to be particularly worrying for Pochettino. In our fourth experience, he was kicked out during this month for the third time. He left the club with Dortmund in eighth place after 14 games. They were already 19 points behind Bayern Munich but only one point away from climbing to fourth.

FM22 Pochettino in Dortmund Tactics

Was it difficult to sack him after a few months of rebuilding after Haaland? Probably. Some people did well, but Pochettino’s Dortmund was easy to beat, and he didn’t score many goals.

Judd Bellingham and Giovanni Reina were kept on their own, but big things were expected from Adeyemi, and fans eventually grew tired of seeing him not used in a more central role.

Pochettino’s stock drops rapidly in these trials. Can he salvage his reputation in the last two exams?

FM22 Pochettino Dortmund sacked


Naples

We’re now in five tests in and Pochettino has an 80 percent drink rate. At least this time, he was able to get rid of the December curse and it lasted until February before he was relieved of his duties. Napoli found itself in sixth place, seven points off the top four, with 11 games remaining.

Given that Napoli finished third in real life during the 2021-22 season and had no clear candidate to win the Scudetto, as they had in past years with Juventus, the expectations of the board were strong – and Pochettino’s results were anything but.

FM22 Pochettino in Naples tactics

The only job in which he was able to last a full season was at Chelsea, which is ironic given the club’s willingness to sack managers under former owner Roman Abramovich.

With only one trial remaining, all attention turned to Athletic Bilbao. In theory, the chances of him getting kicked out of this role were much lower because less was expected of him.

But given his performances at Leicester, a team in a similar position to Bilbao, nothing is guaranteed.

FM22 Pochettino in Naples


Athletic Bilbao

In fact, Bilbao finished eighth in La Liga last season. In FM22, the club is expected to take seventh place. Pochettino’s job here is simple: make sure the team is ready to qualify for a place in the Europa League.

To his credit, he did what was required of him when he led the club to eighth place. But last place in the league does not tell the whole story. At the beginning of March, Bilbao finished third and are vying to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. After 11 matches, they fell off the table and did not even secure a place in the European Conference League.

FM22 Pochettino in model March Bilbao

Bilbao has only qualified for the group stage of the Champions League twice in the club’s history. Pochettino had a chance to make himself a modern-day legend, but all his hard work fell apart in a big way as the campaign drew to a close.

He’s been able to last the entire season, so at least there’s that, but fading into insignificance after standing on the cusp of a major breakthrough has only shrunk Pochettino’s inventory even more.

FM22 Pochettino at the Bilbao League table


Takeaway

Pochettino took Spurs to new heights, but ultimately failed to win a title in his five years at the club. However, when he left Tottenham in 2019, he left them in a better place than when he joined in 2014.

But therein lies the problem. In FM22, he didn’t have the luxury to take half a decade to inculcate his ideas. He was expected to be an instant hit, having sacked four of his six jobs, save for a modest stint at Bilbao and snatching the best from Havertz at Chelsea.

“I’ve been in the world of football for many years and I understand the coach has a selling history.” Those were Pochettino’s words upon his exit from Espanyol in 2012.

The only surprise from our experiences with FM 2022 was how quickly its expiration date came. He arrived and promised a long shelf life but ended up straining his relationships with the majority of the teams he manages.

(Top Image: David Ramos/Getty Images)

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