Vincent Janssen – Patience, not pressure, required at Tottenham Hotspur

On Saturday, Tottenham Hotspur stung the Hornets with some blistering football against Watford.

Whilst Son Heung Min and Dele Alli sparkled, the analysts, the media and a minority on Twitter also focused on Vincent Janssen, criticising or (in some cases) deriding the striker for missing a good chance in front of goal.

If this had been a Harry Kane missing the chance, there’s a strong likelihood that the miss would have been explained away, perhaps as “the defender got a deflection just taking it away from him”.

When Eden Hazard scored against Manchester City, the commentators explained that the powerful shot took a slight deflection giving Willy Caballero little time to react to the change in direction.

So why don’t the same rules apply for Janssen and Adrian Mariappa’s slight deflection? Because some pundit believes a striker that “cost a fortune” (arguable in these transfer fee inflated days) should be banging them in without fail.

It’s a viewpoint at best simplistic and ignorant, but then, arguably, many “analysts“ purpose is to be contentious rather than analytical.

The money paid by channels is used as justification to be provocative, to attract attention, to be the entertainment. The football is the reason to watch, not the pundit.

One of the problems with the punditry on a player like Janssen is the multiplying effect, where these comments are picked up and repeated to the point where there appears to be an inordinate amount of pressure placed on the player.

This is a player in his first season in the Premier League.

At only 22 years of age, there is the adjustment to a new country, to a new club, to a new style of play all the while in the knowledge of not being the first choice striker for your club.

This is one of the problems for Janssen.

Recently, the retired striker and columnist James Scowcroft said a striker needs constant game time.

The need for match sharpness, to understand teammates and anticipate their movement will only increase from constant game time; that through this a striker will find a rhythm to their own game.

Then with form, the goals may start to flow.

Janssen knows he will not start ahead of a fit Harry Kane, so the chances of playing himself into form are even more difficult.

So far this season he has played 1,027 minutes [around 11 entire matches] but this has been spread so far over 34 appearances.

Janssen has been prolific over the last few years. Last season he scored 27 goals for AZ Alkmaar,  but he also started 32 matches and played 2,751 minutes

Of his 34 appearances, Janssen played the equivalent of a full 90 minutes over thirty times. The form, understanding and rhythm that comes with that, are reasons why he scored so many times.

Janssen’s situation is not uncommon. Lucas Perez has been used sparingly at Arsenal though contributed nineteen goals and eleven assists last season at Deportivo la Coruna.

Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi scored seventeen goals last season at Marseille. This season has seen him play only 134 minutes as he watches Diego Costa from the bench.

Wilfried Bony has gone from being the best thing since Welsh rarebit at Swansea City to forgotten at Stoke City, via a period of playing second fiddle to Sergio Aguero.

You can question why a striker would move to a club under such circumstances. With Kane acting as Spurs’ only recognised out and out forward, Janssen may have believed he would get more game time than he has.

Perez facing competition from Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck is a less obvious decision (both by Wenger and Perez). Maybe the question should be thrown back at the clubs.

Why spend a higher fee (Chelsea paid £33.5 million for Batshuayi) on a prolific striker who has been starting regularly for their current club when the intention is to use the transfer target as a back-up?

The problems inherent with being a backup may impact their confidence, their form and undermine the reason for buying them in the first place.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy an experienced, older (and cheaper) striker who can come in and use that experience to better recognise and fit into the requirements for the team?

This may be for the shorter term but have more of an immediate impact. The rumours of Chelsea’s interest in Fernando Llorente in January may just be a reflection of this.

There have been comparisons on social media by some of Vincent Janssen to Roberto Soldado. It’s a different situation and a completely unnecessary comparison.

With Gareth Bale, Clint Dempsey and Jermain Defoe departing in the summer, and the inconsistent Emmanuel Adebayor as a striker, Soldado was brought in to be first choice striker (Harry Kane was yet to make the break through).

The amount of playing time should have helped Soldado find form despite the acknowledged difficult adjustment period.

However, arguably the main difficulty was Soldado trying to find form in a team of so many new players bought with the Bale funds also trying to do the same.

The situation at Spurs now appears different. Planning is for the long term with a team being built around a pool of gifted young players.

The 22-year-old Dutchman has been brought in to a settled team and patience will be needed to allow for the adjustment from Holland and the Eredivisie, as well as doing so with limited game time.

There have been glimpses, particularly against Swansea – the back heel for Son’s goal, the hold up for Dele Alli to play in Christian Eriksen for the Dane’s goal – of what may be to come.

It’s also possible to see some of the things Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino likes about Janssen.

There is strength to his game, the ability to hold up the ball (the hold, turn and shot against Watford is an example) and bring in others, and what appears to be a prodigious work rate.

Spurs should be in the Champions League again next season. With demands on numerous fronts, the squad will be important.

Janssen, with a season of adjustment behind him, should allow his manager the chance to rotate more, give more game time and help allow the striker to find his form.

That first season adjustment can be extremely important. Didier Drogba for all his legendary status at Chelsea was not an instant success in his first season. Afterwards, however…

The reaction of teammates when Janssen scored against Millwall would suggest an acceptance within the squad.

There is no apparent reason to suggest that his manager is perturbed by his lack of goals, though of course Janssen would like to have scored more goals for his new club, it’s a natural wish.

It is difficult to adjust to a new life, from (with all due respect) a club of AZ Alkmaar’s stature to one of Spur’s without the added public pressure and media scrutiny that comes with the Premier League these days.

Vincent Janssen should hopefully yet prove his doubters wrong.

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Alan Robins
Alan Robins

Love all things football. Blogger. Views my own

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