Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino 'concerned' by Victor Wanyama situation
LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino's midfield headache is showing no signs of easing ahead of Tottenham's clash with Liverpool, after he admitted concern about the fitness of Victor Wanyama and revealed that Mousa Dembele has suffered a fresh injury.
Wanyama missed preseason with a knee problem and has not played since suffering a reaction following the first two matches of the season. He will see a specialist in the next week.
Dembele has not played since the 1-0 win over Barnsley in the EFL Cup last month due to foot and ankle problems but Pochettino hoped he would return against Real Madrid, only for the Belgium international to suffer a fresh injury to his hip in training the night before.
"We are concerned about his situation," the Tottenham manager said of Wanyama. "We must wait for when he sees the specialist and then we'll see what happens. But of course after some time without him involved in the training sessions and with the team, we are concerned. But now we need to wait next week to have a more clear idea of what's going on."
Pochettino found Dembele's "very technical" injury "difficult to explain" in English so he turned to his assistant Jesus Perez, who said: "He had an incident in one of the training sessions [in Madrid], and complained about one of his hips and he's not able to cope with the intensity of the training.
"It's as simple as that. It's been three or four days since the incident and he can't cope with the intensity of the training."
In better news for Pochettino, Ben Davies (illness) and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (concussion) are available to face Liverpool on Sunday, while Danny Rose is expected to be on the bench again after playing for the first time since January in the 1-1 draw with Real.
Pochettino says Rose could start in Wednesday's EFL Cup match against West Ham and also hopes to be able to name Erik Lamela on the bench -- exactly a year to the day since he last played.
"He [Rose] is still not ready to start," Pochettino said. "He needs to build up his fitness but we are so happy because he's doing very well. He had the possibility to be on the bench on Tuesday. It was important for the team and to play a few minutes. Always, when you start to feel involved again and help the team, it's so important after 10 months. Now it's a process to build up [his fitness] and get him better every day and then we'll see if on Wednesday he has the possibility maybe to be in the starting XI. It depends on the progression.
"Erik, we are talking every day. He needs to find that feeling where he can say 'now yes, I am available again to compete.' It was a similar situation with Danny and I hope maybe he can be on the bench against West Ham, but it's not sure. It's about waiting but he's been doing very well in the last few weeks, with the team in training. We only need to wait for that click where he feels 'yes, I feel I can cope with the competition.'"
In the absence of Wanyama and Dembele, Pochettino named a surprising lineup for the credible draw in Madrid, with Fernando Llorente partnering Harry Kane in a front-two and Eric Dier part of a back-three, leaving Harry Winks relatively isolated against Real's midfield.
The decision paid off but Pochettino revealed that even some of his closest friends had questioned his team selection.
"It was amazing because some people very close to us said to us, 'Can I be honest with you. When I saw the starting XI, what the f---? 'What happened? What's going on in his mind?'" Pochettino said.
"Ten minutes after the end of the game, they said, 'You are a genius!' It's so difficult to explain every single game what we are trying to do and translate it to the fans. That is about trusting that the manager decides the starting to always try to win. Sometimes it works. But I feel the same after the game if I win or lose about my decision, because I cannot regret my decisions."
Tottenham have five games in the next two weeks and asked if it was risky to continue to chop and change his personnel and system, Pochettino said: "It's a risk if you don't work, it's a risk if you're not prepared as a team.
"In the last few seasons, I hear a lot that Tottenham don't have Plan B and plan C. It's most important that we have a plan. Now we're flexible because we think of different ways to play, keeping the philosophy, idea and identity of the team. You need different players because they provide you with different characteristics and different options to play.
"It's a risk to play the same, be obsessed with playing only one way. The team believes, the team needs to accept that you can change not only from one game to another but during the game. I am so proud, our players accept that and believe we can play different ways."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.