Mauricio Pochettino admitted today that he has struggled to pick his first XI all season – and in fact perhaps has never had the chance:
“I think it is difficult to say that is the starting 11 that was in my mind. With all of the circumstances we have, from the beginning, I think it is difficult to say that is the starting 11 that was in my mind. The important thing is the 11 players showing, and little by little we are recovering players, players that are taking time to reach the level we expect from them,” Pochettino responded when asked whether he had ever been able to choose his ideal XI.
“I think in the way we are training, the way the players behave, the attitude we are showing. I think we are improving. Yes, it’s about to win the next game and get the feelings we build from Aston Villa.”
The rotating cast of injuries has been his downfall, with Christopher Nkunku the crucial missing piece for most of the campaign. He’s started just two games for Pochettino, and in those games Reece James, another unquestionable first XI player when fit, has been out.
But the game against Aston Villa (which saw Nkunku rested) saw a great performance and a team which may be the closest we’ve seen to his true first XI so far.
As always though, it’s two steps forward and one back. Nkunku will be fresh and ready to step back in on Monday night against Crystal Palace, but now we’ve lost Benoit Badiashile, whom Pochettino confirmed will have a scan on a groin injury today, and will certainly miss that game – and potentially a lot longer.