Mauricio Pochettino is undoubtedly the best manager Spurs have had in the modern era. That can’t really be questioned.
Pochettino instilled stability at Tottenham in the form of a system and a culture, and he did so after a prolonged period of neither existing at the club.
But he’s not perfect. He does make mistakes. Part of the reason he’s such a good manager is because he is often able to recognize his mistakes and admit his fault either in the press or just by changing things up.
Another change is needed, as Pochettino is making a big mistake to start this new Premier League season. Davinson Sanchez has a bright future, but Jan Vertonghen is much too good a player to be sitting on the bench, as he has in each of the first three games of the new campaign.
Vertonghen has been a constant for Spurs under Pochettino. In 2017/18, the Belgian was chosen in the PFA’s Team of the Season. He might’ve had a shot at making the team last year too if he hadn’t been injured. After returning from injury, Jan was a mainstay in the team that made it all the way to the Champions League final.
He’s an elite player, and at only 32-years-old, there’s no reason to believe his abilities have suddenly dropped off, especially as a defender who relies more on positioning and technique than on pace or athleticism. Clearly something happened between him and Pochettino that has put Sanchez in the gaffer’s good graces over Vertonghen.
Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld have played well together before, but the Belgian pairing gives Spurs one of the best center back tandems in the world chemistry-wise. Toby & Jan established themselves together at Ajax, and then both players rekindled their partnership with the Belgian National Team before having another reunion at Spurs.
In North London, the Vertonghen-Alderweireld cooperative established a backbone and defensive fortitude that became the foundation of Tottenham’s improvement as a club during the Pochettino Era. I can’t understand why that would be broken up.
Midfielders and strikers form partnerships too depending on the formations they play in, but no team can survive a center back duo that can’t work together. The only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Newcastle came because Sanchez was not positioned in-line with the rest of the Spurs defense. This isn’t the first time the Colombian international has been the out-of-place part of a defensive line.
Meanwhile, Alderweireld and Vertonghen sometimes feel like they’re the same person. They’ve played together so much and know each other’s movements and tendencies so well, do we think they would have been out of line? When Toby steps up to push the line forward and catch someone offside, Vertonghen does the same. That’s easier said than done in the heat of backtracking to defend an attack, as Sanchez found out yesterday.
I’m not trying to deny Sanchez’ potential. He’s still just 23-years-old, and Vertonghen can’t have more than a few more years left at Spurs before the twilight of his career.
That being said, Sanchez is not better than Vertonghen yet, and these mistake-riddled performances are evidence of that fact.
It’s time for Pochettino to put aside whatever disagreement pushed Vertonghen to the bench. This is not some problematic character who threatens to sabotage a dressing room’s atmosphere, this is one of the best defensive servants that Spurs have ever had.