Last week’s decision to start Federico Fazio against Arsenal in the League Cup was met with dismay beforehand, and anger afterwards.
A lack of depth at right-centre back – due to Eric Dier’s conversion to defensive midfield – means Fazio is the only senior player available to rotate with Toby Alderweireld, but his lacklustre showing against the Gunners suggests the much-revered Spurs academy should be utilised again.
Two candidates stand out as potential options for Pochettino, but whether he feels they are ready for the big stage is not yet clear.
17-year-old Cameron Carter-Vickers is one of the most promising youngsters on the club’s books and has already appeared for the United States Under-23 team.
The powerful defender is technically accomplished and fiercely competitive. His progression to the first-team seems inevitable, but whether it will be in the next few months or the next few years remains to be seen.
Milos Veljkovic is the other candidate, and the 20-year old would seemingly be ahead in the pecking order owing to his – albeit limited – experience of senior football out on loan.
The Serbian Under-20 captain had spells with Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic last year before injury forced an early return to White Hart Lane.
Veljkovic fits the bill for what Pochettino wants in his ball-playing centre-backs and his proficiency in possession is evidenced by his ability to slot seamlessly into a defensive midfield role.
The Serb was close to leaving on loan this summer, however, which suggests Pochettino still has doubts as to what he can offer the team in the here and now.
Thrusting either player into the Europa League limelight would be a risk, but with the need to rest Alderweireld an inescapable one, Pochettino has a decision to make.
Fazio has his uses but struggles against agile, technically gifted players, and those are the types likely to be encountered on Tottenham’s European travels.
The Argentine clearly has no long-term future at White Hart Lane and by throwing Veljkovic or Carter-Vickers in at the deep end, Pochettino may just unearth the solution to his side’s only remaining positional problem.