Just before half time in Tottenham's 3-2 win at West Ham on Saturday, Moussa Sissoko fouled Mark Noble, sparking a typically yappy reaction from the home captain. Noble, four inches shorter, squared-up to the Spurs midfielder, wagging a finger and barking in his face. Sissoko stood his ground, growling back in hostility.

It is easy to imagine this show of defiance, more than anything else, prompted Mauricio Pochettino to say afterwards: "I think Sissoko is doing very well. I am so happy with him this season."

Pochettino loves his players to fight for themselves, for their teammates and for him, and the Spurs manager will never condemn a bit of "argy-bargy". The confrontation was over quickly but it was the first time Sissoko has really seemed to be a Pochettino player, up for the fight and invested in the team.

Last season his rare attempts to assert himself, like everything else he tried following a deadline day move from Newcastle, were badly misjudged. He was suspended for three matches for elbowing Harry Arter in a frustrating 0-0 draw at Bournemouth in October before he was criticised by Pochettino for not working hard enough in training or matches. Even when he tried to say the right thing, he got it wrong, urging Spurs to return "home" to White Hart Lane for the Europa League when it was impossible. He finished the campaign without a meaningful contribution.

Spurs considered selling Sissoko in the summer, particularly after he told L'Equipe he wished Pochettino would communicate with him better. The comments did not impress the manager, not least because they had talked on Spurs' postseason trip to Hong Kong, with the £30 million signing promising Pochettino he was committed to the club and would improve.