Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has revealed that striker Vincent Janssen required a private “wake-up call” in his office earlier this season, but that he is happy with the way he has bounced back since.
Janssen scored his first goal from open play for the club in the 6-0 FA Cup win against Millwall last weekend, with Spurs fans hoping he can adequately fill-in for Harry Kane over the next few weeks, after the England international suffered ankle ligament damage in the same match.
The goal was just Janssen’s fifth in 25 appearances for Tottenham this season, with his preceding four goals all coming from the penalty spot. And the Dutch striker was so short of confidence during that spell that Pochettino felt it necessary to invite the player into his office in an attempt to boost his confidence.
“So far from the beginning of the season some players need a wake-up call in private, in my office,” said Pochettino.
“It is true that in the earlier period of the season his form was down and he needed a wake-up call to be reminded that the possibility of him playing could arrive.
“Now he is okay, he is motivated and confident. He is also feeling a little bit of relief after his first goal from open play and that is important. I am happy with the way that he has trained this week, too.”
There was much excitement at Tottenham when the club signed Janssen from AZ Alkmaar ahead of the new season, for £17m. The forward, who was awarded the 2016 Johan Cruyff Trophy for the best young Dutch player, had enjoyed a spectacular breakthrough season in the Eredivisie, scoring 27 goals in 34 league games.
But the 22-year-old has found adjusting to English football tough, despite proving a popular figure in the Tottenham dressing room. When he scored against Millwall, he was mobbed by all of his team-mates and given a warm reception by the White Hart Lane crowd.
Janssen has found opportunities hard to come-by, largely restricted to small cameos at the end of matches because of Harry Kane’s good form, and Pochettino appreciates that a lack of starts has made Janssen’s season even more difficult.
“It is complicated for the offensive players at the big teams, who are behind Harry Kane, Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez or Zlatan Ibrahimović,” Pochettino said.
“But [Janssen] is young and has just arrived from Holland. I am happy with him and all the players but I understand that they are not happy with all situations.”
Tottenham will be hopeful that Kane’s injury does not derail their ambitions of a second successive top-four finish.
The club confirmed earlier in the week that he had suffered ankle ligament damage, although in a statement Spurs said the injury “is not considered to be as severe” as the one he suffered against Sunderland earlier in the season.
The club are however likely to be without their leading goal-scorer for a significant portion of the run-in, although Pochettino is confident Spurs can improve on their dismal league finish last year, when they took two points from their last four games and lost 5-1 to relegated Newcastle on the final day of the season.
“I am very confident like I was last season and what happened in the last three weeks was a big surprise for us,” said Pochettino. “But I hope that will not happen again for us. I hope that will not happen again the last three weeks like we finished.
“We are fully confident in the squad and team and we hope that we will games and finish in a very good way.”