Mauricio Pochettino could not have been clearer in highlighting the main reason for his recent woes.
“I’m so happy that tomorrow the transfer window closes” the Tottenham manager told Sky Sports after Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal.
“You cannot keep your emotions inside. You show because you care. You care about the club, you care about the team, you care about your fans. It is not easy to be a clown, to laugh, to put the best face in front of everyone. I am like I am; I am very emotional. That is why we are going to start the sixth season (here), because we care a lot about Tottenham.”
Pochettino has cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks, with speculation surrounding Christian Eriksen proving to be a major distraction in the early weeks of the 2019/20 campaign. But despite his desire to swap north London for Spain, Eriksen remains a Tottenham player after the closure of the European transfer window on Monday evening – and the end to discussions about his future will only help Pochettino and his side going forward.
The Denmark international’s importance to the cause has been evident in recent weeks. Tottenham looked toothless in their surprise 1-0 defeat by Newcastle United, with a lack of creativity proving their undoing as Eriksen spent most of the match on the bench. He was restored to the XI for the north London derby and immediately made an impact, giving Tottenham the lead and generally impressing with his invention and composure in possession.
Eriksen was not the only first-team regular who returned to the starting line-up at the Emirates Stadium, however; Vertonghen was also recalled by Pochettino, who handed him his first appearance of the season.
The Belgian’s absence from the team against Aston Villa on the opening weekend came as a surprise, because in comparison to Eriksen there had not been many stories linking him with a move away. However, like the former Ajax schemer, Vertonghen has less than 12 months to run on his contract and does not know where his long-term future lies.
Spurs missed the 32-year-old during his time on the sidelines, and although they did not deliver the most defensively assured display at the Emirates on Sunday, Vertonghen’s presence in the backline will be a major boost going forward. The Belgium international has been one of the division’s outstanding centre-halves in recent years, able to excel either in a two or three-man backline.
A tough tackler who is difficult to get past in one-versus-one situations, Vertonghen reads the game well and is also terrific in possession, capable of carrying the ball forward and playing incisive passes between the lines to set Spurs on the attack.
“Yeah, I am very, very happy to be back,” Vertonghen said after the north London derby. “He (Pochettino) said before the first game against Villa it was a tactical decision and I respect that decision.
“No, no, no (it was not fitness related). I came back fit. I played in every pre-season game and I didn't miss a session. Like the manager explained, it was a tactical decision and we players have to accept his decisions.
“I'm experienced and fit enough to get back into the rhythm and it was just the goal before half-time that gave them the spirit to get back in the game.
“If we just killed the first half and go into the dressing room with that good feeling it's a different game. “I think we did well, we defended well, we were good in possession, created loads of chances, were 2-0 up so it was just great in this derby away. So we have to go in the dressing room 2-0 up.”
Arsenal were the better team on the day, but a draw away from home against big-six rivals is a positive result for Spurs – and so too is Vertonghen’s return to the fold.