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Pochettino: rotation vs. Stoke was to keep players fresh

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Oh, but the subtext!

Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Mauricio Pochettino made four changes to the starting 11 for today’s win over Stoke City at the bet365. Fullbacks Serge Aurier and Danny Rose came in for Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies, Eric Dier started on the bench in favor of Victor Wanyama, and Erik Lamela went out for the return of Harry Kane to the lineup.

None of those were especially shocking changes from the team that beat Chelsea last weekend, but Poch was asked about them in the post-match press conference, and to maybe everyone’s surprise, Poch gave a pretty long and drawn-out response.

“Look I was so happy with the performance of the team, to beat Chelsea after 28 years. It’s only that the players need to feel confident and feel that they can play for the team. Rotation sometimes is because of performances, sometimes it’s to provide the team with fresh legs or for different reasons that we have in our ideas or our plan for the team.

“Of course today was a tough game and we needed to rotate for different reasons. In the case of Kieran Trippier, he played two games in the international break with England and was overloaded and was a little bit tired. We cannot take a risk. He’s okay, he’s fit and everything but if in this type of situation we can look to avoid taking risks and we have players like Serge Aurier, who is working hard, why not give him the possibility. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy with Kieran, or with Dier or Lamela, or with different players like Ben Davies.”

“The most important thing is the team, is the club and if the players work hard and deserve to play and keep pushing when they’re not playing and their behaviour is good, of course we are a coaching staff, a manager that we are going give the opportunity to play of course.”

That’s a pretty long, and precise answer to a rotation question that probably could’ve been answered with a terse 1-2 sentence reply. It almost seems like Poch was quietly addressing a certain Belgian elephant in the room. The pre-match scuttlebutt was that Toby Alderweireld was left at home for this match, and that was born out by the team sheet today. It’s led to even more speculation over Alderweireld’s future with the team.

This might have been an oblique reference to Toby, but maybe he’s just tired of talking about player selection, I dunno. But it’s interesting that he gave such a thoughtful response about the way he selects his players. Rotating the fullbacks is a typical Pochettino move, after all, and I don’t think anyone blinked at the idea of resting Eric Dier or Erik Lamela taking a seat for Harry Kane.

But hey, all I know is that Poch was able to give a few players a rest today, and that bodes well as Spurs head into the final stretch of the Premier League, with games coming thick and fast.