Mauricio Pochettino admits to having stern words with Vincent Janssen in a bid to convince him he can be a success at Tottenham.
Striker Janssen is back in the spotlight with Harry Kane nursing an ankle injury, but the Dutchman faces a fight to rescue a miserable debut season at White Hart Lane.
His goal against Millwall last weekend was Janssen’s first from open play since joining for £17.5million from AZ Alkmaar eight months ago and he failed to take his chance when Kane was out for seven weeks in the autumn.
Ten appearances in that period yielded only three goals for Janssen – all from the penalty spot – as Tottenham went five games without scoring from open play and six without a victory.
They can ill-afford a similar slump this time around, with Chelsea already 10 points clear at the top of the table, and Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United breathing down their necks in the race for Champions League qualification.
Son Heung-min, fresh from his hat-trick against Millwall, is more likely to start up front against Southampton on Sunday and Pochettino accepts Janssen has endured a difficult opening season.
“It’s true that in some period of the season his form was down,” Pochettino said.
“He needed a wake-up [call] to be reminded that the possibility of playing could arrive.
“He is very young. He came from Holland. I’m happy with him and all the players, but I understand they are not happy with some situations.
“He is okay, he is motivated, confident – he is feeling a little bit of relief after his first goal from open play and that is important. I am happy in the way that he trained this week too.”
Tottenham are not alone in their reliance on one player – Kane – for the vast majority of their goals, given the likes of Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero are all similarly dominant at their clubs.
None of the Premier League’s top six have more than one striker in double figures this season, with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, along with Sanchez, the closest on eight.
“It’s easy to say we need better players on the bench behind Harry Kane,” Pochettino said.
“But it’s complicated for offensive players who are behind Diego Costa, Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez or Ibrahimovic at big teams.
“Players are training hard every day to try and find their best form, but every weekend they do not find too much possibility to play.
“Always we say they need to be professional, but they are only human and it is very tough to come in every day, it’s very complicated.”
Pochettino lauds Michel Vorm
Tottenham have no such problems at the other end of the pitch where Michel Vorm provides strong back-up for first-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Vorm has started all of Spurs’ games in the FA Cup, however, and Pochettino suggested he will keep faith with the Dutch stopper for next month’s crunch semi-final against Chelsea.
“Hugo has been playing in the Premier League and European competitions, and when you have a player like Michel Vorm, who is capable of playing at any club, he deserves to play in the semi-final – why not?” Pochettino said.
“He is a very experienced goalkeeper, and the way he has been working since day one when he arrived here, and how much he has helped Hugo to be one of the best keepers in the world, he deserves the trust and the confidence to play at Wembley.”