Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino has perfected the art of diplomacy and responding cryptically, learning not to divulge too much in his pre-match press conferences.
This learned, reserved technique was again on display in his presser today, prior to tomorrow’s juggernaut tussle with Manchester City.
Ben Davies is back in the running for selection, but will almost assuredly start from the bench. Giovani Lo Celso, if the appropriate circumstance arises, is expected to see some action. Like Davies, he’ll almost certainly start from the bench.
In one of his few off the cuff moments, Pochettino pitched in jest an idea that would see each team’s coaching staff play against one another in a “parallel league”. Love the merit of the idea, but I don’t think Roy Hodgson or Chris Wilder, Sheffield United’s gaffer, would support the movement.
Pochettino is acutely aware of his side’s Premier League regression in recent seasons, and is concentrating on improving consistently their domestic form. Competing for the title is of paramount importance for a club that has shown clear intent by spending big in the transfer window.
Avoiding the Christian Eriksen possible departure questions, Pochettino, as scripted, put the focus on his team and the collective. As journalists fished for an earth-shattering revelation, the gaffer stayed the course, delicately treading around the heart of the issue.
If Pochettino’s selection decisions are based purely on performance, Eriksen’s inclusion for Saturday’s match should be guaranteed. Spurs faithful, even if they disagree with the Dane’s recent behaviour off the pitch, will be appalled to see him left on the bench at the Etihad. That is unless Lo Celso gets the nod in his stead, an unlikely outcome.
While relatively untested, Davinson Sanchez enjoyed a decent outing against Villa in the opener. But Pochettino’s response about whether Jan Vertonghen will be involved was distinctly short and terse. The gaffer obviously wanted nothing to do with the question, appearing quite tense about the controversial topic. Based on his response today, don’t be crestfallen to see the Belgian once again left off the team sheet. However, he made crystal clear that Jan is fit and healthy. His decision to leave him out of the squad was based on his performance level in training. Though I thoroughly believe the two have fallen out, hopefully only temporarily.
Personally, I hope he starts. Let’s see how he performs under adversity. His character almost certainly promises a positive reaction.
All eyes are squarely on Kyle Walker-Peters, who will be placed under constant pressure against one of the world’s most dynamic attacks. It will be interesting to see if he’s matured and experienced enough to prosper in the most challenging environment on offer.