Mauricio Pochettino claims Tottenham's back-up to Harry Kane comparable with rivals' fringe strikers

Matt Law
The Telegraph
Vincent Janssen scored his first Tottenham goal from open play against Millwall in the FA Cup - Copyright (c) 2016 Rex Features. No use without permission.
Vincent Janssen scored his first Tottenham goal from open play against Millwall in the FA Cup - Copyright (c) 2016 Rex Features. No use without permission.

Mauricio Pochettino has read the column inches, listened to the radio phone-ins and watched the television pundits debate whether or not Tottenham Hotspur can cope without Harry Kane.

A common argument is that Spurs should have signed a better deputy to Kane and that neither Son Heung-min nor Vincent Janssen are good enough back-up options for a club fighting for a top-four Premier League finish and the FA Cup.

Son, who is expected to be given the chance to fill Kane’s boots against Southampton on Sunday, has scored 14 goals in all competitions, while summer signing Janssen has netted five times – one of which came from open play.

Janssen has largely been written off as a flop after arriving for £17million, but Pochettino does not feel the Dutchman’s efforts have been significantly worse than the second and third-choice strikers of Tottenham’s rivals.

Michy Batshuayi, who cost Chelsea £33m, has scored five goals, while Arsenal’s £17m signing Lucas Perez has played fewer minutes than Janssen and netted seven times.

<span>Like Janssen, Arsenal's Lucas Perez has also struggled for starts</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Like Janssen, Arsenal's Lucas Perez has also struggled for starts Credit: AP

English back-up strikers have not fared much better, with Wayne Rooney also on five goals, Daniel Sturridge on six and Marcus Rashford on seven. The Manchester United duo have both played significantly more minutes than Janssen.

Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud has much better numbers than Janssen, over a comparable number of minutes played, although the Frenchman is still behind Son on 12 goals.

“It's easy to say we need better players on the bench behind Harry Kane, but it's complicated for offensive players who are behind Diego Costa, Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez or Zlatan Ibrahimovic at big teams,” said Pochettino.

"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 and it's very complicated.

How does Vincent Janssen compare to other back-up strikers?

“We are happy because the players we have are very professional and provide good quality.”

On 22-year-old Janssen, whose first goal from open play came against Millwall last week, Pochettino added: “You see different players arrive this season, there’s a lot of examples….when you have a main striker like Harry Kane, it’s difficult for a second or third striker to take his place.

“He’s very young and came from Holland, a different league, the adaptation is difficult but he’s in the process to learn and improve. It’s only his first season in England.

“We are happy with him. It's true that in some periods of the season his form was down.  He needed a wake-up 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.

<span>Tottenham are hoping Harry Kane recovers speedily from an ankle injury</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Tottenham are hoping Harry Kane recovers speedily from an ankle injury Credit: Reuters

“He is motivated and confident. He is feeling a little bit of relief as his first goal from open play and that is important. I am happy in the way that he trained this week too.”

Kane is using the power of positivity to try to hand Pochettino a major boost a return from his ankle injury in three weeks, even though his expected comeback date is more like six weeks.

Pochettino, however, is not worried by predictions of another end-of-season collapse for Tottenham without Kane.

“We will see,” he said. “But it was good last season to finish badly and finish third. It was the best position in the history of the Premier League for Tottenham. I hope we finish badly and maybe win a trophy or finish second!

“It is true that we will miss Harry, as he is one of the best strikers in the world. But what can we do now? We can trust in the players that can replace him. We are fully confident in the squad and team, and we hope that we will win games and finish in a very good way.”

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