If Harry Kane cut a jaded figure for England at Euro 2016, the good news for him and Tottenham Hotspur is they have a player ready to share the load of leading the Spurs attack this season.
That was the impression created by Vincent Janssen on his debut in Tottenham’s opening 1-1 draw with Everton, the powerful 22-year-old stepping impressively into the centre-forward role after replacing Eric Dier in the 56th minute at Goodison Park.
The Dutchman scored 27 goals in 34 league games for AZ Alkmaar last season and made an instant impact in the final 35 minutes at Goodison, leading the line with aggression as Kane dropped deeper.
Janssen has caught the eye in Spurs’ pre-season games too and Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, admitted he was grateful for another attacking option. “I am open [minded] but this season we have a lot of competitions, including the Champions League, and a lot of games and maybe they can play together or play Vincent or Harry. That is my decision always before every game.”
Kane played 64 times last season – 50 of those games for Spurs – and had made just one appearance in pre-season before Saturday’s fixture, when he scored twice in the 6-1 friendly win over Internazionale. He was a peripheral figure at Goodison, though Pochettino dismissed the notion he could expect to play fewer matches this term. “No, he needs to be ready for every game and then it is my decision whether he plays or not,” he said.
To be fair to Kane, he was not alone in struggling in a first half where the visitors were off the pace. All of Tottenham’s five England players – Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Kane – had just the one pre-season game behind them and Pochettino admitted that “they need time to be in the best situation”.
However the Argentinian did not use it as an excuse for Spurs’ lethargic first-half effort in a game where they came alive only after the restart when Erik Lamela cancelled out Ross Barkley’s early free-kick strike. “They are ready to compete and for that they played today,” said Pochettino. “You know it is true that it’s very close to the period they were involved in the Euro. It’s difficult to manage that but they are ready – no excuse. Now, whether they were fit or not, I think we played very badly in the first half and not in the way we usually play. The second half I think looked like Tottenham.”
As for Everton, their performance bore out manager Ronald Koeman’s pre-game suggestion that they were only 70 per cent ready physically for the new season. That said, the Dutchman’s influence was already evident in the way they pressed the ball in the first half, and their better shape and organisation. They showed impressive determination too to cling on for a point in the second half at a ground where they succumbed far too easily under Roberto Martinez last season, losing eight times.
With Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie due to complete his transfer imminently – he was reportedly on Merseyside today (Sunday) for his medical – Koeman will soon have another string to his attacking bow yet the new manager’s post-match verdict after his first Goodison fixture on Saturday left no doubt about the demands placed on his front players to put in the hard yards too.
“They need to run more, do more and press more,” he said of Gerard Deulofeu, who filled in as centre-forward in the injured Romelu Lukaku’s absence, and Kevin Mirallas.
“It is all about the work rate of the players and sometimes it’s difficult because that kind of creative player is sometimes a bit more sloppy in that aspect of football. But we will work on it and we saw Ross [Barkley] in the second half working hard for the team. It’s not a question of how good is his technique or how good is his first touch. He needs to take more responsibility for the team and do also a job defending and that makes the team stronger.”
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