Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has admitted for the first time that he is disappointed by the efforts of struggling striker Vincent Janssen.
Janssen has started only one game in three months – against Aston Villa in the FA Cup – and was not even included on the bench for Spurs’ Europa League defeat to Gent on Thursday.
It was the latest humiliation in a miserable debut season for Janssen, who is yet to score from open play since joining Tottenham for £17.5million from AZ Alkmaar last summer.
He has converted four penalties: one in the Premier League, one in the FA Cup and two in the EFL Cup.
Harry Kane’s unrivalled status at White Hart Lane meant Janssen’s opportunities were always going to be limited this season but such is the 22-year-old’s lack of form, he is now being overlooked even in the cup competitions.
Kane, who took a knock to his knee against Gent, is likely to be rested against Fulham in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday but Pochettino was less than emphatic about the idea of Janssen coming in.
“Maybe, maybe,” Pochettino said. “Against Gent he was out of the squad. He needs to show more and we’ll see.
“Maybe he will have the opportunity to be on the bench or play [from the start]. We cannot be sure if he will be in the squad, on the bench or start from the beginning.
“Performance is always about how the players show their quality, their belief on the training ground.
“When you select the starting XI and the bench, I try to be fair. It’s normal that maybe he needs to show more.”
Pochettino fielded a near full-strength team against Gent, perhaps in the hope of resting players at Craven Cottage, but Tottenham can hardly afford another slip-up.
They have won only twice now in six matches, while scoring just once in four, and there is a very real risk of their season unravelling if this dip continues.
“It’s about trying to give support to help them recover the same spirit and the same feeling that was before Liverpool,” Pochettino said.
“I am not unhappy, I’m not upset. Sometimes things happen, up and down. “Now we try to be all together and try to find all together the way to change this run.”
If Kane is rested this weekend and Janssen left out again, Heung Son-min may start up front. Kieran Trippier, Harry Winks, Michel Vorm, Joshua Onomah and Cameron Carter-Vickers could all be given a chance to impress.
Tottenham play Gent in the second leg at Wembley on Thursday before hosting Stoke in the Premier League three days later.
“You know how tough the competition is in England – the Premier League, the Champions League, the Europa League,” Pochettino said.
“Always it’s too difficult, because maybe some problems will appear with the players [like] they are not fresh and it’s a big risk to play them on Sunday.
“After we have a lot of games ahead to play. It’s not a lack of respect [for the FA Cup]. We try to give all the players an opportunity.”