Opinion: Analysing who should start at right-back against Newcastle

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

By all accounts, Serge Aurier has impressed during this international break. Using his Africa Cup of Nations win against Niger as an example, the right-back, who captains Ivory Coast, notched the opening goal, before grabbing two assists, in a comfortable victory. He also then led the team in a win against Ethiopia, earning himself another assist.

So just as it looked as though Aurier wasn’t at the forefront of Jose Mourinho’s thinking, he goes and puts himself back in contention. Or does he? This is the dilemma that the Spurs boss faces. Who gets the nod on the right side of our defence this weekend?

Let’s start with the aforementioned Aurier. Many Spurs supporters are fans of the marmite-esque full-back. He is a tenacious player, who aims to drive at the opposition and get into attacking positions.

Despite this, he has shown on many occasions that he lacks defensive awareness all too often, leading to match-changing mistakes, which are all too frequent to name.

In fact, Jose Mourinho summed up Aurier’s tendencies perfectly, when explaining to the players in the Amazon documentary, that he didn’t trust him not to give away a penalty.

So is it possible to forgive Aurier’s brain-dead moments and instead focus on his greater attributes?

Well, let’s look at his competition. First up, Matt Doherty. The only other recognised right-back at the club.

His arrival from Wolves last summer was greatly anticipated, as we had all seen how effective he could be in attacking areas in previous seasons. Unfortunately, his move has not worked out thus far.

He looks uncomfortable on the ball, lacking in any pace, and he isn’t driving down the wing, which is the Irishman’s key strength. Sadly, he cannot be considered as the first-choice right-back at this moment in time. 

So that leaves Japhet Tanganga. The 22-year-old has been converted into a right-back by the current Spurs boss, and he looks to be a solid option in this position.

Mourinho has even stated that Tanganga is our ‘emergency guy’. So if this is true, and Mourinho trusts the player in emergencies, then why not use him more regularly?

Mourinho naturally highlighted that there are areas where the Englishman needs to improve but did emphasise how well he reads the game. This attribute cannot be further contrasted to Aurier’s situation.

If Tanganga can read a game well, but is being held back by his inexperience at right-back, then surely he will need game-time if he is going to improve? 

So who do Spurs opt for? In Aurier, they have a ready-made right-back. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he is the finished article in the sense that he will not improve any further with age. And of course, the Ivorian possesses experience on the biggest of stages.

In Tanganga, Spurs have a rough diamond, who will need time to grow into the player that many think he can be. So the question is, does Mourinho have time to play the long game, or will experience win the day?

It may simply come down to the opponent. Perhaps Aurier is better suited to games in which Spurs have more possession and Tanganga is better suited to more defensive responsibilities.

Having said that, this weekend, I would give the nod to Tanganga after his impressive display last time out.

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