THESE are beginning to feel like the end of days for Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham.
The bare statistics tell us enough.
Relegation form for nine months — 25 points from the last 24 games — and no away win in the Premier League since January.
Throw in the crushing humiliations of a League Cup defeat by Colchester and a 7-2 Champions League home drubbing by a Bayern Munich side who have since sacked their manager and it is clear that breaking point is nigh.
Add to the mix Pochettino becoming a sulky, high-maintenance manager, increasingly remote from his players, and the situation appears irrevocable.
For the first time in a working relationship of 5½ years, the prospect of chairman Daniel Levy sacking Pochettino is said to be a genuine possibility.
Some at Spurs fear the shadow of Jose Mourinho hanging heavily over a once-happy club, with the Portuguese’s camp briefing their man would fancy the job.
The impression is of a burnt-out manager, who has fallen out of love with his job after five years of workaholic striving.
STARK CHOICE SOON
Pochettino’s insistence that he should be referred to as ‘head coach’ rather than ‘manager’ due to a lack of influence over recruitment is also key to the sense of drift.
After 18 months without a signing, the summer’s transfer business was hailed as a success by many.
Yet £65million club-record buy Tanguy Ndombele has been inconsistent, Ryan Sessegnon has yet to start and loanee Giovani Lo Celso is very one-footed.
Overall, Pochettino’s tenure has been a roaring success, of course.
Consistent Champions League qualification — even despite almost two years in exile at Wembley — was a magnificent achievement, given a negative spend in the transfer market.
Yet Spurs are already 11 points adrift of the top four, meaning Champions League football next season is highly unlikely.
And while the march to last season’s final was historic and dramatic, the no-show against Liverpool in Madrid kicked off a summer of discontent for Pochettino, from which he hasn’t recovered. A club with a wonderful new home and perhaps the best centre-forward on the planet, Harry Kane, is the envy of many.
But with several senior players disaffected with their treatment by Levy, a freshening up is now much needed.
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Should Spurs suffer defeat at West Ham on Saturday — and the out-of-form Hammers have a habit of raising it against their London rivals — Levy will face a stark choice.
Does he send Pochettino packing with the sort of hefty pay-off he is always so reluctant to make?
Especially in the knowledge that Manchester United could easily hire the Argentine should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffer another downturn.
With 3½ years left on his £8.5m-a-year deal, Pochettino will not walk away without compensation for himself and his trusted coaching staff.
So unless results improve dramatically, a Mexican stand-off over money could paralyse the club.
Spurs players know that West Ham is a huge fixture. While many still feel great loyalty and affection towards a manager who has improved them individually and collectively, they detect a sense of disconnection and weariness in their boss.
Can they rouse themselves from a desperate slump and kick-start their season with a first away win in ten months?
Or will they leave Levy with a serious decision to make?
The long-serving chairman has made some poor choices of managers down the years — Jacques Santini, Juande Ramos and Andre Villas-Boas — while Louis van Gaal was his preferred choice before Pochettino took over in 2014.
Mourinho and Levy in the same building is a potentially explosive mix.
Max Allegri is a candidate, while Carlo Ancelotti could be back on the market soon, with his job at Napoli under threat.
Levy’s preferred options of Gareth Southgate and Brendan Rodgers are both highly unlikely to leave their current employment right now.
So there is no easy way out of this mess for Levy or Pochettino — but sometimes it is best for both parties to recognise that all good things must come to an end.
CHELSEA began the season having lost star player Eden Hazard, operating under a transfer ban, with a rookie top-flight boss and a bunch of kids relatively untried at the highest level.
So you would have got good odds against the Blues travelling to Manchester City in November ahead of the champions in the Premier League table, as they will do on Saturday.
Boss Frank Lampard is performing a minor miracle at Stamford Bridge and with Fikayo Tomori becoming the ninth Chelsea academy graduate in two years to receive an England debut, this is becoming the unlikeliest of feelgood stories.
SO five of the Liverpool players who featured in their last fixture — the win against Manchester City — have sat out matches during the international break.
It will be interesting to see how many of Mo Salah, Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez are available for Saturday’s visit to Crystal Palace.
Sir Alex Ferguson was a master of this sort of thing during his title-winning heyday. Jurgen Klopp is cut from the same cloth.
WENG’S JOB FIT
CONGRATULATIONS to Arsene Wenger on his appointment as Fifa’s head of global football development.
It feels like the sort of job the Frenchman had been craving throughout the second half of his Arsenal career — plenty of chance to theorise without the results of pesky football matches proving him wrong.
AJ’S RING STONE
ANTHONY JOSHUA’S four fights which packed out Wembley and Cardiff’s Principality Stadium in 2017 and 2018 were a genuine phenomenon.
Support for the heavyweight was off the scale of anything previously seen for a British boxer.
Yet anyone wanting to attend Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr on December 7 must travel to Saudi Arabia — a state where human rights are primitive and which is also completely dry of alcohol, rather putting the kibosh on the idea of a big night out.
And if you want to watch from home, pay-per-view will set you back a whopping £25.
As an object lesson in abusing the loyalty of fans, this takes some beating.
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SOME YOU WHIM
I ENJOYED the performances of Harry Winks during England’s two recent games.
Yet this intelligent and inventive player has failed to get into the starting line-up of a struggling Tottenham team for their last two matches.
Another one of our outstanding midfielders, Phil Foden, faces an even tougher situation at Manchester City.
One of the chief frustrations of Gareth Southgate, heading towards the Euro 2020 finals, is that he remains beholden to the whims of club managers.
GRIMSBY have sacked manager Michael Jolley after an extraordinary rant at local radio reporters which included 58 F-words.
Even the godfather of managerial profanity, Joe Kinnear, could manage only 52 swear words in a press conference at Newcastle in 2008.
This post written by ian tuckey originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.