Mauricio Pochettino sticks to his tactics rather rigidly. He favours key personnel, often for good reason. This is arguably mainly due to the shallow squad at Spurs. However, with the post-World Cup hangover, the team is showing signs of a need for more rotation. The return of Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks will help this, but there is still no capable replacement for their star man, Harry Kane.
Return of Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks a Boost For Spurs
He started against Liverpool, registering his first start this season after recovering from his ankle injury. Pochettino withdrew the midfielder after 73 minutes. At the time, this was the right call, and it really helped to give Spurs some added attacking emphasis. Erik Lamela and then Heung-Min Son were brought on by this point, both players making a serious impact on the match and almost turning it around.
Winks’ game was average and nothing like his best performances. But, this is hardly surprising for a player who has been out for months with a serious injury. In fact, there were some very positive signs of his recovery in the match. There were some confident driving runs from deep to just before the final third of the pitch. However, he still did not seem his usual unflappable self on the ball and still played with a little apprehension physically.
Nevertheless, his reintroduction to the squad means a greater chance for rotation. Whilst it seems unfair that his first start had to be against title contenders Liverpool, he at least got some minutes. In the upcoming matches, he will be called upon again. However, Pochettino must be very wary to avoid burning him out too soon or causing any reoccurrence of the injury. Still, he is a creative, capable young midfield player who has been held back by his injuries but fights his way back to inspiring performances. He is the cog in the midfield, more often responsible for retaining possession and distributing the ball, although he has grabbed a few goals surging from deep, arriving late on the edge of the box.
Victor Wanyama is another player who made his return in the loss to Liverpool. He too has recovered from a longer-term injury, in this case, a knee injury. In contrast, he was given a cameo late on in the match. Again, though, it really didn’t showcase Wanyama at his best. He looked a little unsteady on the ball, even if he still retained his impressive strength and power. There was too little time to really assess how well he has recovered since missing a chunk of pre-season.
However, he is another player that will really boost squad depth and allow Pochettino to rotate more. There was a time where a player such as Wanyama or Eric Dier would form the heart of the team. These midfield destroyers would shore up the defence and allow Spurs to build from the back. Now the tactics have altered. But, players such as Wanyama retain some influence. Wanyama is similar to Dembélé in the way he holds up the ball and is impossible to bully. His ball distribution is inferior and he doesn’t possess the same silky glide in his dribbling. Nevertheless, his defensive contribution in terms of tackling and interceptions is greater. He also gives a bigger threat at set pieces.
Furthermore, setting aside comparisons with Dembélé, Wanyama is a great complement to this player in midfield in certain matches. Different situations call for differing midfields. Sometimes Spurs need to strengthen their resolve and thus can rely on both of these giants.
Harry Kane is the player who needs the most rest out of the entire squad. This is a young player who has been relied upon for scoring goals for both club and country non-stop for the past three years. His professionalism is admirable and he will never give up, no matter how fatigued he is. However, whether it is fatigue or some other factor in his game, he is appearing to struggle in his latest performances for club and country. The issue is that there is a lack of options to play in his place. Spurs have Fernando Llorente, who is yet another uninspiring attacker consigned to League Cup cameos. Apart from that, they can maybe field Son up front or experiment with Dele or Lamela getting further from traditional centre-forwards.
It is clear then that the club really should have invested in more firepower. It is impossible to rotate a player if his alternative is someone who won’t be able to match his contribution. Kane sets a very high bar, but his replacements perhaps don’t even reach halfway up that bar of contribution. The January transfer window is an opportunity that Daniel Levy should but probably won’t choose to take to correct this issue.
This summer, Spurs’ squad depth was already under question. Now, with successive losses to Watford and Liverpool, the squad comes under greater scrutiny. Now, Pochettino doesn’t have as many resources to work with as some Premier League teams. However, there are some personnel, especially those returning from an injury that may help to rest some key players and let others shine. The one position where Tottenham will struggle is up top. Kane is irreplaceable, but his alternatives are unfortunately too average to provide even the smallest of stop-gaps.