Mauricio Pochettino has been discussing the process required to get the best out of Mykhailo Mudryk and Marc Cucurella, two players who will hope to feature at Craven Cottage tonight.
Cucurella has yet to play a minute of Premier League football this season but with three of our full-backs unavailable for our most local away fixture, the Spaniard could be handed his chance. He showed during the win over his former club Brighton, when he dealt impressively with the in-form Kaoru Mitoma, how proficient he is at right-back as well as left-back.
There were media reports Cucurella was close to joining Manchester United on loan in August, but Pochettino says there were no signs then of the 25-year-old’s commitment wavering, and the pair have since spoken.
‘After the transfer window closed, we were talking in my office and we were very clear about how I see him and how I assess him,’ Pochettino said.
‘I listened to his feelings. Now it’s about working really hard and waiting for the opportunity. The situation is clear. He is in our plans, and if he deserves to play, he will play.
‘It was a difficult time for him when he arrived from Brighton, a tough situation not only for him but for many players, and that is why we need to give him confidence and trust him.
‘He was really good against Brighton on Wednesday playing on the right side. He is doing so well. I am so happy with his performance and commitment. That is what we expect from our players.’
Mudryk is another who, in Pochettino’s words, had to adapt to ‘a big change in life’. The Ukrainian has shown glimpses of his talent and has been rewarded by Pochettino with starts in each of our past three games.
The head coach admits he cannot compare Mudryk’s personality to that of anyone he has worked with before, so he too is presented with a ‘good challenge’ to work out just what makes the winger tick.
‘Mischa is a very talented player of course. You need to go with him slowly. His culture is very different, but he is trying to be more open, to adapt, to be more involved, on and off the pitch.
‘He is doing a massive effort to try to integrate himself and understand better what it means to play in the team.
‘It’s not about arriving and performing when you are young,' added Pochettino.
'It’s about adapting, helping them to settle. Then the most difficult thing is to understand what they need to settle and feel comfortable and express their talent.
‘He is young and he is going to improve, and we are so happy with the way he is improving.’