White Hart Lane endured its dullest atmosphere of the season on Sunday. Pre-game there was an air of excitement as some of Tottenham’s academy products and new signings would be able to express themselves in an attempt to impress coach Mauricio Pochettino.
With Harry Kane’s girlfriend giving birth to their baby daughter, up stepped Vincent Janssen.
The 22-year-old must have known what was coming when he signed from AZ Alkmaar in the summer. Still young, he was looking to develop at one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. But, frankly, Spurs will never drop Kane for as long as he is scoring. Even when he’s off the pace, he’s useful.
So when Janssen signed, he was either delusional or up for a challenge. The latter is admirable but, as the Dutchman is starting to find out, frustrating. The thing about a challenge is that in order to be successful, you must be competitive, willing, able and, most potently in this case, you need an element of luck.
You may well have heard the story by now. The Dutch striker is yet to score from open play, bagging just three from the spot. The life of a striker is confusing. Some come into the Premier League and find their feet straight away and some initially stall. Others may never come good, namely Roberto Soldado who came before him.
Understanding a blank is another thing. Confidence is crucial. It was evident at White Hart Lane on Sunday that Janssen is fidgety, uncomfortable and generally irritated. When through balls didn’t come his way, instead of persisting, he let his head and shoulders drop in unison. As an observer, he doesn’t look like scoring.
Tactically, Tottenham are starting to understand. When the ex-Almere City man was used as the lone striker in Kane’s absence at the beginning of the season many understood his blanks to be a result of poor service. With Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen off form, Tottenham created little and even Kane would have struggled in that environment.
However, Janssen has a habit for having his back to goal and peeling off when crosses come into the box. His willingness to be on the ball may indicate his want to be involved and prove his worth, but in truth to endear himself to fans he is going to need that open play goal.
Patience often runs thin. Being substituted for Alli against a struggling Championship side in Aston Villa doesn’t help.
Pochettino’s decision was brutal but fair. It swayed the game in Tottenham’s favour. Now, Janssen will go into training downbeat and withered. The hallmark of a competent striker is to overcome inevitable droughts.
The Europa League may offer the chance for the Netherlands international to repair some of this season, but this term has been a genuine learning curve. With talk of a loan move or transfer looming, it is solely up to Janssen to bounce back.
Stuart Fagg, Pundit Arena