Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino without key midfielders for clash with the Reds
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Spurs still have injury problems ahead of Liverpool match with Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele still on the sidelines
Mauricio Pochettino admits he is “concerned” about Victor Wanyama’s knee injury as the Kenyan waits to see a specialist, while Mousa Dembele has also had a setback after suffering a hip problem in Real Madrid.
Wanyama was struggling with his knee problem during Tottenham’s pre-season tour of the USA and was only able to play in the opening two Premier League matches before retiring to the treatment room.
He has been out of action since August and Pochettino said: “We are concerned about his situation. We must wait for when he sees the specialist next week and then we’ll see what happens. But of course after some time without him involved in the training sessions and with the team, we are concerned.”
Wanyama’s midfield colleague Dembele has also been on the sidelines, missing the last five matches.
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The Belgian has a long-term foot problem which required an operation in May and he reported an ankle problem after last month’s League Cup tie against Barnsley. Then, just when he seemed set to return against Real Madrid on Tuesday, he suffered a hip injury.
Pochettino’s assistant Jesus Perez explained: “He had an incident in one of the training sessions and complained about one of his hips, and he’s not able to cope with the intensity of the training. It’s as simple as that. It’s been three or four days since the incident and he can’t cope with the intensity of the training.”
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The good news for Spurs is that Ben Davies is back in training after missing the last two matches due to illness, while Georges-Kevin Nkoudou has also rejoined the squad after suffering concussion against Bournemouth on Saturday.
Meanwhile Danny Rose made his long-awaited return from injury against Madrid on Tuesday, playing for the last 10 minutes at the Bernabeu, and Erik Lamela could be available next week after a year out of action.
“[Danny] is still not ready to start,” said Pochettino. “He needs to build up his fitness but we are so happy because he’s doing very well. Always, when you start to feel involved again and help the team, it’s so important after 10 months out.
“Now it’s a process to build up [his fitness] and get him better every day, and then we’ll see if on Wednesday he has the possibility maybe to be in the starting XI [against West Ham in the League Cup]. It depends on the progression.
“Erik, we are talking every day. He needs to find that feeling where he can say ‘now yes, I am available again to compete’. It was a similar situation with Danny and I hope maybe he can be on the bench against West Ham, but it’s not sure.
“It’s about waiting but he’s been doing very well in the last few weeks, with the team in training. We only need to wait for that click where he feels ‘yes, I feel I can cope with the competition’.”
Rose has returned to the fold despite questioning Tottenham’s ambition during an outspoken newspaper interview in August – and Pochettino feels he has a long-term future at the club.
“Of course. He has I think four more years left on his contract,” said Pochettino. “I think you can see during the game he was very good. He helped the team in the last few minutes against Real Madrid. I saw him, and am seeing him, very good and very happy. His behaviour is fantastic. There’s nothing to say about that.
“In his mind now he is clear that what happened was in the past and we need to move on. For me now [it’s about] looking forward to trying to provide the team with the best quality to try to win, and he’s part of my plans.
“The past is in the past and always you must understand that when the player doesn’t play, many things happen in their mind, and they are so young too. In life they are so young.
“They can make mistakes but the most important thing is to learn from the mistakes and the most important thing for us to accept that and provide them with things to learn and show they can be important in the team again.
“The fans were very good with him at the Bernabeu in Madrid. I think the fans want the best for the team, and Danny is our player.
“Now there are a lot of things he can provide to the team and help us. All the fans are fantastic and understand everything and the situation, and they showed good love. They care for our players. Everyone can make a mistake but the most important thing is to learn from it.”
Pochettino sprung a surprise with his line-up at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, moving Eric Dier into central defence, using Jan Vertonghen as a wing-back and picking Fernando Llorente up front along with Harry Kane.
Having raised eyebrows in the hour before kick-off, he is feeling vindicated in his decisions and feels there is a lot to be said for being unpredictable.
Asked if he has a surprise in store for Liverpool on Sunday, Spurs’ manager said: “Maybe, no? It was amazing because some people very close to us said to us [on Tuesday] ‘can I be honest with you. When I saw the starting XI [I thought] what the f? What happened? What’s going on in his mind?’.
“Ten minutes after the end of the game, they said ‘you are a genius!’. I said, ‘ok thank you! But before I was very bad?’.
“It’s so difficult to explain in every single game what we are trying to find and develop, and translate it to the fans. It’s about trust, about feeling that the manager decides the starting XI to always try to win.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I feel the same after the game if I win or lose, about my decision, because I cannot regret my decisions. The process is about respect, analysing every player, analysing the opponent, our performance, our form and then trying to win.
“Everyone waits to see the shape, the system, the players and it’s difficult to agree completely with the manager. It doesn’t only happen at Tottenham, it happens all around the world. Not too many people recognise ‘oh I was wrong, the manager was right’.”
Pochettino continued: “It’s a risk [to keep changing the tactics] if you don’t work, if you’re not prepared as a team to be flexible and think you can play in a different shapes and systems and positions. If [the players] don’t accept that, you are dead.
“To take risks if you the know the players can cope with the job you expect from them, that is the most important thing.
“In the last few seasons I hear a lot that Tottenham don’t have a Plan B and Plan C. Now we’re flexible because we think of different ways to play, while keeping the philosophy, ideas and identify of the team.
“You need different players because they provide you with different characteristics and different options - and it’s a risk to play the same, to be obsessed with playing only one way.
“The team believes and the team needs to accept that you can change not only from one game to another but during the game. I am so proud because our players accept that.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs