Earlier today I posted my predicted lineup for Tottenham Hotspur in the first North London Derby of the season, which takes place at the Emirates on Sunday. It featured a lot of players that have put in significant minutes this week. This is Arsenal, I wrote, You play until your legs fall off.
Mauricio Pochettino disagrees. Asked in a press conference about the prospect of some of his stars playing 270 minutes of football in 8 days, Spurs’ manager said that it’s a long season, and he won’t take chances with the health of his players, even if it’s the North London Derby.
“We are assessing [our players], maybe [they’ll play], maybe no. We have tomorrow to decide. If we feel the player is going to take some risk then of course we are going to rest.
“It is not important the name. If we believe we need to rest some players we are going to rest [them], we are not going to take a risk. We are going to put a player that we believe can cope with 90 minutes of effort. We know you cannot 100 per cent avoid the risk on the player but we need to be sure the players that are going to play are ready to compete.”
Poch was specifically referring to players such as Toby Alderweireld, Dele Alli, Moussa Sissoko, and Harry Kane who have all played well in two wins over Chelsea and Inter Milan, but who have put in a lot of wear on the tires this week. In truth, it’s almost sacrilege to think that Harry Kane could start a North London Derby on the bench this Sunday, but Poch didn’t rule that out. Same with players like Davies and Alderweireld.
In truth, there are replacements for many of those players. Danny Rose looks set to give Ben Davies a rest. Juan Foyth could easily deputize for Alderweireld. And there are numerous ways that Poch could structure the midfield to give Dele a breather, at least for the start.
But it’s Kane that is probably the most concerning. Yes, he’s an iron man and will probably want to start anyway, but the prospect of losing Kane to a muscle injury due to overexertion is terrifying. The alternative is to play a Kane-less NLD with either Son Heung-Min, Lucas Moura, or Fernando Llorente at the tip of the spear.
I don’t think we’ll see that. I think Kane will start, though he may not play the full match. Still, Poch has said repeatedly that he has confidence in all of his players to get a result. We’ll find out Sunday just how serious he is about resting tired players ahead of a big match.