When Tottenham Hotspur’s lineup was released for yesterday’s match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, a lot of Spurs fans were wondering what happened to Moussa Sissoko. The 27-year old midfielder was left entirely out of the match day 18 for the second consecutive league game.
After the match, Pochettino said that he left Sissoko out of Spurs’ squad against Chelsea for "tactical reasons," which spoke volumes at the time. Poche had also expressed frustration after Sissoko had said that Spurs should return home to play Europa League matches in White Hart Lane instead of Wembley Stadium, saying "The player needs to focus on playing."
Now it’s gotten even worse. In the Guardian today, Pochettino came out and said quite clearly that Sissoko has not done enough in training or matches to earn himself a spot in Spurs’ game day rosters.
"Football is not about money. It is about players being better, and that they show on the training ground that they are better than another team-mate and that they deserve to be involved or not. In my opinion, I need to take the decisions and I believe that the players that started in the game [on Saturday] and the players on the bench deserved to be involved in the game. There’s nothing else to [read into] it.
"It’s not frustrating for me. It’s about football. We can see in football different things that happen. You sign a player and then you expect something, and you don’t find what you expected … If another deserved to be involved, like maybe [Georges-Kévin] Nkoudou or Josh Onomah, or [Vincent] Janssen, then why not? Just because we pay money [for someone], do they deserve to play? Sissoko needs to work hard and to show in future that he deserves to be on the team."
Ouch. This is certainly fodder for the sizable (and growing) contingent of Spurs fans that think that Sissoko isn’t good enough for Tottenham and are furious that Spurs spent so much money for him this summer. Newcastle fans in particular are no doubt laughing; Sissoko had essentially worn out his welcome at St. James’ and at the time a lot of Toon supporters were gleeful that they had somehow managed to get £30m out of a player who was by all accounts pretty bad in their relegation season.
It’s not exactly unearned, either. Sissoko had one decent match for Tottenham (against Manchester City), but otherwise has been mediocre to downright awful. He was suspended three matches for elbowing Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter in the head, and has barely been near the Spurs lineup since, making only a 17 minute cameo vs. Monaco.
This isn’t by any means the end of the road for Sissoko, but it should serve as a warning: laggards beware. We have seen Pochettino banish players to the development squad for underperforming or because he simply doesn’t rate them (exhibit A: Emmanuel Adebayor), and while calling out your expensive new signing for not living up to expectations is a bit mortifying for everyone involved, it will hopefully serve as a swift kick in Moussa’s backside. Work hard, train hard, and you’ll play. Don’t... and you won’t.
Spurs were making a hard push this summer for Sissoko’s former Newcastle teammate Georginio Wijnaldum, who said Jurgen Klopp convinced him to join Liverpool over Spurs, and the deadline day acquisition of Sissoko now has the feel of a last-minute panic buy. I want to think that Sissoko can turn things around and be a productive squad player for Spurs this season and in future seasons, but the way things are shaping up at the moment he’s looking like he could end up being one of the worst signings since Heider Postiga. Say what you want about Roberto Soldado, but at least you knew he was actually trying.