It feels like a lot of Tottenham Hotspur fans have already given up on Vincent Janssen. The Dutch striker, who scored 34 times for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie last season, has found goals a lot harder to find in the Premier League this season.
But while the media has called him a flop and linked him with a summer move away from White Hart Lane, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has rallied to his defense in press conference comments ahead of Sunday’s match against Southampton. Dumping Janssen for another player, said Poch, isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“It’s easy to say ‘oh we need better players on the bench behind Harry Kane.’ But if you look at other teams it’s complicated for offensive players who are behind players like Diego Costa, Harry Kane, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez, at big teams.
“I admire the players that are on the bench, training hard every day to try and find their best form, and then the weekend comes and they do not find too much possibility to play – and again, and again.
“Always we say they need to be professional, but they are only human and it is very tough to come in and train every day.”
Janssen was thrust into the spotlight early on in the season after Harry Kane injured his ankle the first time back in October. While he showed industriousness and moments of exciting play, he was never really able to get off the mark after being thrown into the deep end of the Premier League, probably before he was ready. When Kane returned to the pitch, Janssen retreated into the background, and rarely played, even in cup matches against lower-league opponents.
Janssen finally got off the schneid in last weekend’s 6-0 FA Cup win over Millwall, scoring his first goal from the run of play this season. While the relief on his face was palpable, and his teammates were obviously thrilled for him, his reputation of being a Eredivisie “flat track bully” has been hard to shake.
That wasn’t helped a few weeks ago when Pochettino publicly criticized him in a press conference, saying he needed to “do more” in training to earn his playing time. That led many to believe that Janssen was so deep in Poch’s doghouse he might never get out.
Pochettino seemed to back off those comments here, instead implying that the public dressing-down was a motivational tactic.
“It’s true that in some period during the season [Janssen] was down and he needed a wake-up call to realize that he needs to fight and be there if the possibility arrives.
“If you remember in some press conference I was asked about him. But the wake-up call is more private inside here than in public – and it’s not only him, it’s all the players. I think they’ve all been in my office this season!
“It’s normal, he is very young, he came from Holland. I’m very happy with him and all the players, but I understand they are maybe not happy with some situations – different players.
“He is OK now. He is motivated, confident. He is feeling a little bit of relief because he got his first goal from open play – that is important. I am happy in the way that he trained this week too.”
With Harry Kane out with another ankle injury, a motivated, confident Vincent Janssen can’t be anything but a good thing. However, it still remains to be seen whether Pochettino has regained enough trust in him to play him more in league matches, or even start him. Most observers seem to think that Korean forward Son Heung-Min is more likely to start in place of Kane on Sunday against Southampton.
However, with Kane out for at least a month, Janssen is more than likely going to get another chance to show what he can do. This may very well be the most critical period in Janssen’s young Premier League career to date.