Mauricio Pochettino admits Harry Kane’s face mask may be a distraction but is backing the Tottenham striker to find form at just the right time against Arsenal on Saturday.
Kane broke his nose against Crystal Palace a fortnight ago and will wear the mask again at White Hart Lane in the north London derby, a match that could prove pivotal in the race for the title.
The protective measure has coincided with a dip in form for the 22-year-old, who goes into the game against the Gunners having scored only once from open play in his last eight appearances, as well as two from the penalty spot.
Kane spurned two chances, albeit awkward ones, to equalise against West Ham in midweek and it may be that fatigue is catching up with the England forward, who has played 45 times for club and country since August.
After last weekend’s win at home to Swansea, Kane insisted he had hardly noticed his nose or the mask but Pochettino suspects it may be causing his top scorer some discomfort.
“Harry had two or three clear chances to score against West Ham. Unlucky. Sometimes it happens. I have full confidence in him,” Pochettino said.
“Sometimes there is a period arrives that is difficult to score. He is not a machine.
“Then he’s playing with a mask. It will be a minimum of three weeks. Sometimes it can disturb you.
“When you are creative, maybe it’s easier for (Nemanja) Matic or different players that play behind, because it’s not their problem, but you need to be sharp when you are offensive and creative.
“Sometimes it can disturb you a little bit. It’s important. He’s not a machine.”
Three goals in as many matches against Arsenal suggests Tottenham’s talisman can kick back into form at a decisive moment, with Pochettino’s men looking to pull six points clear of their fiercest rivals this weekend.
It was Kane’s double, including a dramatic 86th-minute header, that fired Spurs to a 2-1 win in this fixture last season and now they are daring to dream of not only finishing above their neighbours for the first time since 1995 but winning a first league title since 1961.
Pochettino, however, is clear where is his priorities lie.
“For me it’s important to finish well and try to be on the top and be ambitious. If from there we are above them it’s good too,” Pochettino said.
“We don’t want to compare with them. I think it’s not a good way to motivate our players. I think that our motivation is to be ambitious and win every game.”
Victory would also inflict another serious dent in Arsenal’s own ambitions to be crowned champions after Arsene Wenger’s side slipped to consecutive defeats against Manchester United and Swansea.
As frustration among Gunners fans grows and pressure on Wenger continues to mount, Spurs in contrast appear unified behind Pochettino, with supporters enthused by the team’s rapid progress this term.
“At the start of the season, it was just to be trying to get into the top four but now that we’re close, it’s just taking each game as it comes and seeing what happens,” Kane said.
“We feel we can beat anyone in the league and we’ve been showing that in these last few weeks, so we don’t fear anyone.
“The fans have been amazing. You see when the Arsenal scoreline comes up and everyone has a big roar and it’s important.
“You feel that energy around the stadium. We are doing all we can to give the fans back what they want to see.”
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