“The draw strengthens the belief in our work”
Mauricio Pochettino is a man who has a belief, an ideal that his team plays a particular way. The view of aggressive football harnessing both attacking and defensive conscience. The ability to retain the ball, and upon doing so, using it carefully, making the pitch as a big as possible using the width available. The key to this is the aggression, or, the intensity. Getting in the faces of their opponents, and winning the ball back with a high press and unsettling the flow of the opposition.
This, was glaring to see on Sunday evening at Cornellá.
The 39-year-old has a clear philosophy for the club in its present state, and its future. Unfortunately for him there are instances of outside interference, be it the need to sell players to tend to the club debt, agents hawking his players around Europe in search of better contracts, and most prevalent of all since taking over, injuries. Rarely has the Argentinean had a fully fit squad to choose from, but with these injuries has been a positive. When the club told him there was next to no money available for players unless a significant sale was made, Pochettino made no quarrel but instead looked to the fine project in place at the clubs Cantera. “The economic climate we understand all of the club and I am the first to adapt to the circumstances to proceed with this project. “
Where as most would complain, and say their job is hindered by a lack of in investment, Pochettino simply made do – and more so. The Argentinean coach has filtered through 21 players from the Cantera, and currently coaching in La Liga only Pep Guardiola ahs integrated more with 24. Javi Márquez, Jordi Amat, Dídac Vilà and Álvaro Vázquez are the spine of the club, and surrounding them the likes of Thievy and Raúl Baena are well on their way. Pochettino was also responsible for bringing through Víctor Ruiz, who after earning Espanyol €8m in joining Napoli, returned home and is now a staple of Valencia’s defence with a full Spain call-up not too far away. It’s an admirable stance, and a recent Catalan Cup victory for Espanyol, with Thievy netting a hat-trick, proved that La Masia is not alone in producing fine talent in the city of Barcelona. The young Frenchman is a fine physical specimen, both muscular and agile, who looks like a true athlete that could be an immense presence in the future.
It was fitting then, that Álvaro, one of the more recent players integrated by Pochettino, would score the all important goal. His movement behind Puyol saw him break free and make a yard of space to finish sharply. He ran straight into the faces of the Ultras behind the goal – after all, there are few things more beautiful to an Ultra than the local boy netting against the most hated rivals. “We are lucky to have these coaches. Through work we have proved physically better than Barcelona in the final section of the game”, the youngster stated after post-game, acknowledging those who are moulding him and his colleagues.
Pochettino celebrated on the touch-line. It was if in this moment, all his hard work had been vindicated. Espanyol competed for 94 minutes, and were never outclassed. At times the very foundations of the defence shook at the weight of Barcelona’s midfield and spiralling attack – but they remained strong, keeping their shape and never losing balance. Pochettino’s insistence that his team attack with not only pace and directness, but also intelligence, showed he had little fear in throwing a young team into the fire. Barcelona were smothered throughout, as the blue and white stripes descended on the visitors’ goal sound tracked to a chorus of hate, and belief, from the home support. The louder they got, the harder the players pressed. Cornellà has left a trail of debt in its wake, but nights like these, are priceless.
In a game where money has become so prominent it’s admirable what Pochettino is doing. Inevitably, teams will circle around this talented group of players and how long Álvaro, Thievy and Javi Márquez remain is anyone’s guess. Soon too, the coach himself will become the object of an ambitious clubs desires. Valencia for one, have already made their interest known. More will come. A young coach, gifted, strong-willed, harnessing the philosophies of ‘father figure’ Marcelo Bielsa and next door neighbour Guardiola.
This wasn’t political victory, it wasn’t for Real Madrid and it certainly wasn’t for the vile racists in the stadium. This was for Mauricio Pochettino and his team.