Tottenham have once again made a strong start to the season under Mauricio Pochettino, and it has sparked talks about a possible title challenge. Last season, the club were in the fight for the league title until the final few weeks of the campaign. A miserable run of form towards the end of last season was seen as the reason for Spurs failing to better unlikely champions Leicester City. It looks like there may be more to do with the end of season poor form.
Dutch fitness coach Raymond Verheijen took to Twitter to claim that Pochettino is trying to cover up the muscular injuries suffered by Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele in order to avoid media attention.
The duo had to go off injured in the 1-0 win over Sunderland back on September 18. Back then, Pochettino stated that the two players were merely suffering from cramps. This may not have been entirely true, as they have not featured in any of the matches since then. A player will not be out with cramps for such an extended time; Dier and Dembele are first-team regulars and not the players to feature now and then. It strongly suggests that there is something more serious with the two. Here is the full transcript from Verheijen’s tweets:
“According to Pochettino, last month Dembele and Dier were only struggling with cramp in [the] Sunderland game and would be available for [the] next game.
“In reality they suffered a muscle injury, were unavailable for [the] Middlesbrough game and still not in [the] starting XI of [the] Man City game a few weeks later.
“It’s a worrying new trend in football to see coaches covering up muscle injuries to avoid difficult questions from the media and others.
“Covering up muscle injuries is fighting the symptom. Improving training methods is fighting the problem as most injures result from fatigue.
“There is a lot young coaches can learn from proven top coaches like Pochettino. But they should avoid copying the flaws in their methods.
“A lesson young coaches can learn from Poch’s mistake: Intense training is crucial to improve players but plan moment/amount very carefully.
“Because of Poch’s intense training it’s likely his players will struggle in last months of this season like they did in previous 2 seasons.”
These claims are quite strong and they have to be given attention even though Verheijen has always been a strong critic of Pochettino. It is well-known that the Argentine demands a lot of intensity from his players. Verheijen says that the manager is also expecting the same kind of intensity even in training. He has suggested that it may have started to take a toll on the players. Muscular injuries are common when players are pushed to the limits. If this is the case at Spurs, it may explain their excellent start to the 2016-17 season.
The 2-0 win over title favourites Manchester City at White Hart Lane last weekend was one of the results that have made everyone considers Spurs more seriously than ever before. A major reason for the brilliant result was the intensity that Spurs put into the game. Players, nowadays, cover more distance than ever before but it has come at the cost of longevity. A team playing at this intensity and training at such a high pace at the same time will eventually feel tiredness. Unless Spurs bring in a raft of new signings to increase the squad size, the players cannot sustain the level of intensity throughout the campaign especially with their Champions League involvement.
Verheijen says that while Pochettino has provided several lessons in management to young and upcoming managers, he feels that the South American should take some of the blame for the club’s injury troubles. The criticism from the Dutch coach, though, has to be taken with a pinch of salt, as Spurs currently have the fewest players on the sidelines. Only Harry Kane and Dembele are out of action. It would be interesting to see if Spurs’ energy levels drop drastically towards the end of the season.