Faith in youth starts like Harry Kane beginning to pay off for Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

Kane scored twice on Saturday as Spurs came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1

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The Independent Football

Mauricio Pochettino spoke with the authority of a man who had just been absolutely vindicated. He had just seen his Tottenham team give the ultimate Pochettino performance, full of youthful energy and attacking ambition, lifting them, for a few hours at least, up to fourth place.

This 2-1 victory over Arsenal was not as spectacular as the 5-3 destruction of Chelsea on New Year’s Day, but it was a more complete performance. They dominated throughout, relying on the contributions of three youngsters who have blossomed under Pochettino. Harry Kane scored the goals while Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason ran the midfield.

Pochettino brought some very talented youngsters into his Southampton side last season and explained, in the afterglow of victory, how important this was to him. “This is our philosophy, it was our philosophy at Espanyol, Southampton and now here,” Pochettino said. “In the first season at Espanyol, we gave 25 debuts to players from the academy . If you have players with potential, why not? We have to give them opportunities.” Throughout his career, Pochettino has been moulding young talent, although he describes this as harder than coaching established professionals. “It is very difficult,” he explained. “It is easier to coach players, senior players, because they are already developed. You need to be patient, to have quality.”

 

It does not appear that much patience has been needed with Kane, Bentaleb and Mason, given how well they are playing. Arsène Wenger bemoaned the “quality of defensive pressure” that Mason and Bentaleb exerted in midfield, providing the drive and energy Pochettino wants from his teams.

Bentaleb was especially impressive given that last Sunday he was playing an African Cup of Nations quarter-final for Algeria against Ivory Coast in Malabo, on the Gulf of Guinea. But Pochettino saw he was in a “perfect state” and he showed it on the pitch. Bentaleb, who looks like a future Tottenham captain, was grateful to Pochettino for his trust.

“It is just faith,” Bentaleb said. “We all believe we can win these types of games. We showed it against Chelsea and now against Arsenal. We believe in ourselves. Pochettino has given me focus, trying to lose the ball less, go forward more, and work on my defensive part. He shows us clips, talks to you one-on-one and shows what you are doing wrong and right.”

Bentaleb is improving but the change in Kane is remarkable. He has turned from a skilful, gangly teenager into an imposing, powerful centre-forward. He bullied Arsenal’s centre-backs on Saturday, with one poacher’s finish and a towering header. “We could see from the beginning that he has an amazing potential,” said Pochettino. “After, he started to develop and he has arrived in what is a brilliant presence.”

Kane, the new hero of White Hart Lane, said long after the final whistle that he wished he was still on the pitch soaking up the moment with the fans. “I didn’t want to come off,” he smiled. “It was a special day. It’s something I won’t forget.”

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