Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino thought his side needed a bit more from Thursday’s Europa League knockout round first-leg matchup with Serie A side Fiorentina, but he stands by his decision to start the game with in-form forward Harry Kane on the bench.
[ MORE: Thursday’s Europa League roundup ]
Pochettino elected to start Roberto Soldado (four goals scored in his Tottenham career) over Kane (23 goals this season). The decision looked to be an inspired one early on as Soldado, one of the seven players signed in the wake of Gareth Bale’s world-record transfer to Real Madrid, played with a purpose and confidence he’s not often shown since arriving at White Hart Lane a year and a half ago. Soldado put Spurs ahead with a quality strike in the sixth minute, but looked to fall away as the game wore on.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Pochettino had the following to say:
“We have a lot of games in 17 days, six games. And a potential 10 games in 30 days and we need to give the possibility for all players to play.
“But it’s not a big problem to select the starting 11 for tonight or the next game or to try to pick the best player to try and win the game.”
“We were better than Fiorentina, especially in the first half. We created a lot of chances and at half-time the team deserved to score more.
“My feeling is I am a little bit disappointed with the result but I am happy with the performance.
“It’s a shame but this is football. It is is 1-1 and we need to go to Florence and score and try to win the game.”
It’s never the first, or second, or even the third game in a busy stretch where the heavy legs catch up with a team or player and drag them down. It’s the fifth, or sixth, or seventh game in three weeks where even world-class players look a shell their former self.
Spurs are still very much in the race for fourth in the Premier League and have the Capital One Cup final in 10 days. While winning the Europa League should be — and is — near the top of their list of priorities, Kane has already played more games this season (35) than any other season in his young career (27, for Millwall, in 2011-12). At some point he’s going to wear out, or worse, break down.
Pochettino has to be able to count on his entire squad to perform, and Soldado did just that, at least for a while.