Mauricio Pochettino believes record signing Tanguy Ndombele has not even scratched the surface of what he is capable of at Tottenham despite a dream debut.
The France international, who cost £63million from Lyon in the summer, announced his arrival in brilliant fashion as he scored a fine equaliser for Spurs in their 3-1 win over Aston Villa.
It was the highlight of a debut that got better and better as the match went on, especially clicking with second-half substitute Christian Eriksen.
Boss Pochettino had previously warned that the 22-year-old will take time to settle into the English game and says there is much more to come.
“It was a fantastic performance,” Pochettino said. “But to be honest there is a lot to improve, he only showed 30 or 40 per cent of his potential. He has amazing potential to improve.
“It’s one of the aspects he needs to work on, he didn’t score too many goals at Lyon, but that is one of the areas that is a target for him to improve this season.
“It is so early, in his first game he scored. I am delighted for him, he is a player that arrived to the team from another country and it is always a difficult adaption and it is going to help him to feel happy and comfortable on the pitch and with his team.”
Eriksen’s introduction changed the game as the Dane helped unpick a Villa defence that were doggedly holding on to a lead given to them by John McGinn’s ninth-minute opener.
He played a part in Ndombele’s leveller, which provided the platform for two Harry Kane goals in the final four minutes to win the match.
Eriksen’s future is a constant topic of conversation as he could leave the club before the end of the European transfer window.
Pochettino leaving him on the bench could have easily been put down to his situation, but the boss hinted he is still not fully fit after a summer operation.
“Of course when Christian went on to the pitch he was more fresh and had more quality, of course he is a top player. He helped the team to win the game, I am so happy.
“That is the advantage of a player that cannot play 90 minutes, but is on the bench and his quality can help you to achieve the victory.”
Villa were 17 minutes away from making a winning return to the Premier League in their first game at this level since 2016.
They have spent big in the summer and boss Dean Smith thinks they showed enough to suggest a Championship return is not imminent.
“Definitely, I think anyone who watched the game will have seen,” he said. “Pre-season has gone very well, we’ve played very well.
“The lads have integrated really well and there has not been as much change as everyone would have you think.
“It has been a seamless integration and you could see today from our defensive organisation that they have picked up how I want to play.”
Frank Lampard says opposite number Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a chance to make a stamp on Manchester United ahead of his first full season in charge of the Red Devils.
Lampard takes charge of Chelsea in a competitive match for the first time at Old Trafford on Sunday as the two giants clash in their opening Premier League game.
And the former Chelsea midfielder will be taking on another rookie Premier League boss in Solskjaer who took interim charge of United last December following Jose Mourinho’s sacking, before being given the job full-time in March.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino hopes Harry Kane’s summer of bliss fires him towards the Premier League golden boot.
Kane broke his duck at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at the fourth time of asking as two goals in the final four minutes helped his side to a 3-1 opening day win over Aston Villa.
The England captain rushed back from another ankle injury at the back end of last season in time for the Champions League final and the Nations League semi-finals but enjoyed a rare summer off, getting married and spending a month in the Bahamas.
And Pochettino hopes that can be a catalyst for another goal-laden season.
“To score the two goals, he is very sharp,” Pochettino said. “It is normal. We are talking a lot because he scored twice. I hope this season, please, that he starts to score and doesn’t stop until the end.
“We talk very highly about him. I think he’s been on a nice holiday as you saw everything on Instagram.
“He’s had a wedding and he’s a happy man. When you’re professional like he is, the pre-season is not to get fit but to try to improve.
“The mentality is to enjoy your holidays and then prepare, arrive fit and improve in the four, five or six weeks we have.
“If not, you’re going to pay the problems with injuries or different things can happen. That for me is one of the keys of Harry Kane to be in the shape that he is today.”
Kane’s late goals rescued Spurs as they looked like being held by a Villa side who impressed on their first game back in the Premier League since 2016.
Dean Smith’s side had gone ahead in the ninth minute through John McGinn but Tottenham’s record signing Tanguy Ndombele drew Spurs level with a fine goal from outside the area.
It was the introduction of Christian Eriksen that proved the catalyst for Spurs’ comeback after Pochettino opted to leave him on the bench ahead of a possible exit before the European transfer window shuts.
Stalwart Jan Vertonghen was left out of the matchday squad completely, which was a surprise given both Pochettino and the defender confirmed that he was not injured.
The Belgian is a trusted ally of Pochettino so his omission – and the manager’s explanation of it – seems odd.
Pochettino said: “I want to play the players who deserve to play, who I think to deserve to play and who are playing well.
“My decision today was to play Toby (Alderweireld). If the players didn’t play today, they need to work hard to get their opportunity.
“With all the players fit you struggle to find a starting 11. We have more than 25 players and everyone needs to understand we have plenty of good players in every position. We can only play with 11.
“It’s always the judgement of the manager and the coaching staff. After five years I’m going to play the players who deserve to play, there is not any issue but my decision today was play with Toby and Davinson (Sanchez) to provide a good balance for the team.”
Villa boss Dean Smith was dreaming of pulling off a shock, but knew his side were well beaten in the end.
“It was a tough baptism of fire coming here,” he said. “Performance wise I thought was very good. The defensive organisation was very good but we came up against a superior team who deserved to win at the end.
“I was disappointed with our second-half performance, I thought we were too cheap on the ball.
“When you keep giving the ball away and have to chase as hard as we did today their physicality shone through at the end.”