After arriving at White Hart Lane on a wave of tempered optimism last May, Mauricio Pochettino’s first few months as Tottenham manager didn’t go at all well, resulting in a below-par start to their Premier League campaign.
Spurs managed just four wins from their opening 11 top-flight matches of the season, losing four of their first six at home, following a tense first summer under Pochettino that lacked big-money moves, with centre-half Federico Fazio’s £8m switch from Sevilla the most lucrative.
With a ton of expensive players already on the books after Spurs’ Bale-money splurge the summer before, Pochettino’s remit seemed to be identifying who to use within the squad, and forming alliances with a few senior pros to carry out his bidding.
However, instead of cosying up to goalkeeper Hugo Lloris or centre-half Jan Vertonghen, two of the club’s most valuable assets in their third seasons at White Hart Lane, Pochettino crazily decided to hand the captain’s armband to Younes Kaboul, whose dodgy knees had afforded him just 14 Premier League starts in the previous two campaigns.
Adding insult to injury, the former Southampton boss named Emmanuel Adebayor co-vice-captain with Lloris.
This leadership team never looked likely to last the course, and Pochettino rather cleverly made up for his mistake by phasing out Adebayor just before November’s international break, with Kaboul quietly binned afterwards. Neither of them have started a Premier League match since.
Lloris took over as on-field captain from November onwards and has reportedly been given the armband full-time this summer, but with the France number one publicly stating his desire to play Champions League football, and Manchester United waiting in the wings should David de Gea leave Old Trafford, Pochettino’s choice of vice-captain is baffling.
The Argentine is set to make Harry Kane Lloris’ deputy, ostensibly to help ‘keep him from the clutches’ of United, according to the Mirror, but playing silly games with these roles can have a destabilising effect, as was obvious last year.
Why Pochettino would want a callow 21-year-old leading his team on the pitch when battle-hardened 28-year-old Vertonghen, who captained Ajax to the Eredivisie in 2011-12, lest we forget, is surely willing to take the call.
Vertonghen was usually the fall guy during Kaboul’s run in the team at the start of last term, dropping to the bench in favour of Vlad Chiriches and Fazio when he came in, but having clawed his way back to the forefront, starting all but two of Spurs’ Premier League games after the November international break, the Belgian international’s future seemed more secure.
Expect those ‘Vertonghen to Barcelona/Liverpool’ rumours to restart if he’s overlooked again.