Tottenham need to rest their talented midfielder
You can be sure that Tottenham midfielder Victor Wanyama will be desperate to play against Southampton on Sunday. He didn’t leave the Saints on bad terms, but he’ll still want to show his old club what they’re missing.
Mauricio Pochettino needs to see past that sort of short-term thinking though. The Spurs manager should elect to rest his talented Kenyan this weekend. The fact that he’s still struggling to get over the neck injury he suffered against Millwall means his body is telling him to take a break.
That’s entirely understandable. After all, Wanyama has played more football than anyone else at Tottenham this season. His 27 appearances, all starts, are tops at the club. It’s only natural that his body start to wear down a little at this point in the campaign.
Aside from the physical concerns over Wanyama, there also could be some tactical benefits to leaving him out against Southampton. No disrespect to Claude Puel’s club, but I do expect Spurs to enjoy the majority of the possession in the match. When that’s the case, starting both Mousa Dembele and Wanyama together in the midfield can be overly negative.
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Instead, Pochettino can start Harry Winks alongside the physical Belgian. Just as Winks has stood out playing next to Wanyama, he can excel next to Dembele. The young Englishman can enjoy the freedom to run forward in attack while his physical midfield partner shields the back four.
Winks’ inclusion in the starting XI would help give his club a much-needed attacking boost. Given Harry Kane’s injury absence, Spurs will need the rest of the lineup to collectively pick up the slack. It can’t be left just to Son Heung-Min (or possibly Vincent Janssen) to replace the club’s prolific striker.
Sitting Wanyama against his old club also would ease my concern about the physical midfielder getting caught up in the emotion of playing against his old teammates. He’s done an excellent job of keeping his composure all season long, but this is one match where he’d truly risk being tempted across the line between physicality and petulance.
The importance of Victor Wanyama to Tottenham’s success this season can’t be overstated. He’s earned a break though. At most, he should remain seated next to Mauricio Pochettino until he’s needed as a second half substitute on Sunday.