When Mauricio Pochettino first set foot in White Hart Lane, the future Tottenham Hotspur manager was struck by the simple message emblazoned all around the middle tier of the stadium.
“To Dare is to Do”, translated from the latin “Audere Est Facere”, has been Tottenham’s motto since long before Pochettino arrived in North London, but it serves as the perfect summary of the team’s mission statement under the highly driven Argentine.
Although Pochettino left the Lane that afternoon in March 2014 frustrated after his Southampton side slumped to a 3-2 defeat, the young manager’s first encounter with the slogan which resonated so much would foreshadow greater things to come.
Just two months after that, Pochettino was announced as Tottenham’s new manager and only two years later he already has his club positioned to try to end their long wait to be crowned English champions.
Tottenham's dashing 2-1 win at title rivals Manchester City on Sunday moved them within two points of Premier League leaders Leicester City with 12 games remaining, prompting Pochettino to admit fans were right to start dreaming of a first top-flight title since 1961.
To come within touching distance of emulating the heroics of Bill Nicholson’s team, who boasted Tottenham greats Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay, Cliff Jones and Bobby Smith, Pochettino has infused a club for so long derided as serial underachievers with a genuine belief they can beat anyone and the results have been remarkable.
At the start of the season, few outside the Tottenham dressing room expected more than a challenge for a top four place from a club whose last major trophy was the 2008 League Cup.
But those doubters missed the quiet revolution masterminded by the softly-spoken Pochettino at Tottenham’s new training headquarters in the North London suburb of Enfield.
It is at that state-of-the-art facility where the 43-year-old former Argentina international has drilled his players to master his relentless, high-tempo pressing game that wears opponents down, while convincing them to buy into his team-first ethos.
After making his name in the Premier League by turning Southampton’s crop of young English players from prodigies with potential to top-level stars, Pochettino has achieved a similar feat with Tottenham.
Enthused by their manager’s confidence and given a road map to success by his tactical knowledge, the likes of Harry Kane, 22, Dele Alli, 19, and Eric Dier, 22, have developed into England internationals.
Kane’s predatory finishing has been key to Tottenham’s success, but the composure and class of Belgium defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld has also been crucial in providing a solid foundation for the youngsters to thrive.
Pochettino’s side have been beaten only three times in the league this season and boast the division’s best defensive record, with just 20 goals conceded from 26 games.
Alderweireld, signed by Pochettino from Atletico Madrid after he had impressed on loan at Southampton last year, has been rock solid at the heart of Tottenham’s defence and the 26-year-old feels the organisation of the team is key to their success.
“We feel if we work very hard, with everyone doing their job, we can beat any team,” he said.
“It is not arrogance – we don’t have arrogance, we just have confidence, and that is the difference.
“In every game this season we have had good organisation, and even when things are not going the way you want, you can fall back on that organisation.
“Then try to go up front and make a goal, like we did against City.
“We have a good team that sticks together, and that is important.”
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