This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Jan Vertonghen was one of Tottenham’s best players last season, if not the best.
The Belgium international was simply heroic as Spurs reached the Champions League final and finished in the top four – his form was good enough to prompt our very own Harry Sherlock to dub him the club’s signing of the decade.
Vertonghen is a key cog in Mauricio Pochettino’s team, but for reasons yet to be officially confirmed, the Argentine left the defender out of his squad entirely for the Premier League opener against Aston Villa.
Spurs still went on to get the win – albeit whilst making hard work of it – and when asked about the situation, Pochettino said: “I am going to play the players who I believe deserve to play.”
As aforesaid, Spurs still got the win but not without trailing 1-0 for 73 minutes after John McGinn capitalised on some poor defending.
Pochettino and Vertonghen have to put their differences aside for one reason – there is simply too much competition at the top of the Premier League to be leaving your best players out.
Last season, Spurs finished in the top four by just a single point, and missed out on third place also by a single point having had a superior goal difference to Chelsea – the margins are so fine that there isn’t any time to weaken yourself by not playing a star performer.
Who knows, if the former Ajax man had been playing against Villa then Dean Smith’s side might not have even scored their goal – what if Spurs fail to make the top four by a single goal come May?
Entirely hypothetical, sure, but when the top two dropped just 16 and 17 points each last season, there really is no room for mistakes.
The fact of the matter is that even at this early stage of the season, the points that are won and lost are the same points that are up for grabs in the business end of the season.
Spurs cannot allow themselves to potentially miss out on even just a single point by leaving their best defender on the bench.
Pochettino and Vertonghen must make amends soon.