Paulinho struggling to adapt after multiple chances at Tottenham
So just where has it all gone wrong for a player who Spurs signed after fighting off interest from European powerhouses including Inter and Chelsea?
The short answer is that he simply isn’t playing well enough, either in training or when he has been given chances to impress under Mauricio Pochettino, being restricted to appearances in the Europa League and League Cup and just 30 minutes of Premier League action. The Tottenham manager has insisted that Paulinho will not be sold in the January transfer window, but the 26-year-old has spent most matchdays during the early part of the season at the club’s training center with the rest of the first-team squad members not selected for the 18-man squad.
Etienne Capoue, Ryan Mason, Mousa Dembele, Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Stambouli are all currently ahead of Paulinho in the pecking order, and it is difficult to see him breaking into the side any time soon. The feeling within the club is that there is hope for Paulinho, but the box-to-box midfielder is still suffering the mental scars from the Brazil’s World Cup failure while he has struggled to adapt to life in England.
Life in England started well enough for Paulinho, with some bright performances under Andre Villas-Boas — who pushed so hard for his signature — but sources at the club say the Brazilian appeared to "down tools" after the Portuguese’s dismissal in December. Tim Sherwood felt Paulinho was not committed and was referring to the former Corinthians man when he said: "I know the players I can trust and those I can’t."
Sherwood wanted to sell Paulinho in the summer, with Chelsea showing an interest in signing him to link up with the club’s Brazilian contingent, but in the wake of the World Cup the Londoners received no serious offers for the player. Paulinho arrived with a reputation as an all-action midfielder and was voted as the third best player at the Confederations Cup before moving to Tottenham.
His record of eight goals in 37 appearances in all competitions last season was respectable but he never looked comfortable with the speed and intensity of the Premier League. It meant that Spurs were often overrun and out passed in midfield as he offered poor defensive protection and his passing lacked creativity.
That was instantly picked up by Pochettino as he reviewed last season’s matches and, after returning late to preseason following the World Cup, Paulinho immediately found himself on the fringes. He was dealt a further blow in the summer with the departures of compatriots Heurelho Gomes and Sandro to Watford and Queens Park Rangers, meaning Paulinho is now the only Portuguese-speaking member of the squad.
Paulinho is undergoing regular lessons to improve his limited English and Spurs are continuing to make efforts to help him adapt. The hope is that if Paulinho can settle mentally, he might still deliver the performances that Tottenham expected when the team signed him.
But on the evidence so far, you wouldn’t count on it.
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