Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that he included Toby Alderweireld in his starting XI to face West Bromwich Albion after being unhappy with performances in recent games.
The Belgium international has been frozen out of the Spurs first-team mix over recent months, with speculation over the key centre-half’s future due to a stand-off over a new contract.
Alderweireld was fielded in a three-man defence alongside Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen on Saturday, which ending a long run of Tottenham playing with a back four.
While the game ultimately resulted in defeat despite Spurs dominating possession and territory, the returning Belgian defender put in an impressive individual display.
Pochettino stated after the game that Alderweireld was included to help change the shape of the Tottenham team.
“I think the last few performances wasn’t great,” he told Football London.
“I think we need more consistency and then to try to find with our full-backs to go forward and stay wide. I am happy because I think the system worked. But I think today to play with one or another system is not the key. I think the key is to be more aggressive. I think the team played well.
“Maybe some details [can improve] but to be clinical in front of goal is our challenge, because I think this type of game, with the chances, possession, the possibility to play in the last third or in the opposite, half, we need to create more – more one v ones, be more aggressive, run forward in behind their defence.
“I think we played like ‘ok, next action we are going to [score]. If we don’t score, ok, next, next next’.
“I think we need to realise we need to be more aggressive from the beginning and don’t wait, and to score if we have the chances, and then manage the game. But it was like ‘ok, we are going [to score] because we are dominating the game’. That is a little bit what punished us.”
Alderweireld looked like he has never been away in the performance, with the Tottenham man sublime with the ball at his feet and making some important challenges throughout the game.
Keeping the Belgian at the club this summer would be a big boost and his performance is a timely reminder of just how good the former Southampton man is.
For Tottenham to progress and move to the next level, keeping the club’s best players, including Alderweireld, through increasing wages is needed this summer.