Mazzarri hints that only one of Deeney and Ighalo will start against Tottenham

Walter Mazzarri sounds like he is again contemplating playing just one out and out striker when Tottenham Hotspur come to town tomorrow.

Mazzarri has been bold in his approach this season, regularly fielding two orthodox forwards and staying true to the mandate he was given of playing more attacking football than was witnessed under the more conservative Quique Sanchez Flores. Yet Mazzarri was talking in the singular tense on Thursday when discussing who would play up top against Spurs.

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“I will see,” he said. “What formation we will play will depending on what striker we will use. For sure we have Deeney and Ighalo. We have also got Sinclair. I need to understand how to rotate these three players. Two of those are fundamental players of the squad. The other is a very young player who is starting to get minutes in the Premier League. I also need to understand [the condition of] Amarabat. He’s very tired but last season he played as as striker, I need to understand how to use him.”

Picture by Franziska Empl
Picture by Franziska Empl

So stretched are Mazzarri’s resources that he is considering including some of Harry Kewell’s under-23 players in his squad for the next two games. Full-backs Andrew Eleftheriou and Brandon Mason, Rhyle Ovendene and Michael Folivi are all on standby.

“For Stoke we might get some players from the under-23 team,” said Mazzarri. “They are very young players, especially three of them. We will see if one of them deserve the bench from the way they have been working. We will most probably use one of them. Mason is a good player, left footed. Folivi is also a very good player but it depends on what position I need.”

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Mazzarri with Michael Folivi

Folivi was taken along for the ride at Anfield and warmed up with the team ahead of the game against Palace. Eleftheriou was on the bench against West Brom while those two, plus Mason, Ovendene and Charlie Rowan, were all in in the extended squad for the back-to-back away trips to Manchester City and Sunderland.

“I like to make young players grow but you need to understand what competition you are in,” said the head coach. “It’s a difficult balance to achieve in this league. We are already trying, with players like Success and Sinclair. They are very young players and they have been slowly entering the pitch. If Success hadn’t had injuries, he would be in the starting XI of this team.”