Opinion: Matt Doherty’s lazy red card sums up his uninspiring Spurs start

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Matt Doherty, in the 92nd minute of Tottenham Hotspur’s complete 3-0 win over Leeds United, went in for a 50/50 challenge with Pablo Hernandez.

He was beaten to it and clipped the Spaniard’s foot in very lazy fashion – well aware of the fact he was already on a yellow card. As well all know, David Coote then showed the inevitable second yellow.

We all remember when Jose Mourinho used an expletive-laden rant to urge his players to be intelligent in the Tottenham documentary. 

There was a brilliant photo of Doherty, leaning against the tunnel waiting for the game to end, with Mourinho scowling behind him, clearly thinking far from intelligent thoughts.

All of this kind of sums up the right-back’s start to life in North London.

In short, he isn’t doing enough. The 28-year-old hasn’t really left a mark on any of the 16 games he has featured in so far this season (Transfermarkt).

At Wolves, he had connotations of being a modern full-back, full of marauding runs and providing width down the right-hand side, but at Spurs, he’s been very disappointing in this regard.

Too often he is seen taking the safe option, avoiding taking on a man, or trying to influence the game in an attacking sense.

He hasn’t looked particularly comfortable in defence either. Often, he has faced difficultly shutting out opposing wingers even in the Europa League which – with all due respect – should be light work for a defender of his experience.

As with life, a balanced argument is fair. For Wolves – where he excelled– he was constantly played in a right-wing back role.

His focus was on how he could influence the attack, and in defence – he had reinforcements behind him in Willy Boly or Conor Coady.

In a back four for Spurs, his role has changed, and he looks uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a wait and see situation but the position change does look to be an issue.

However, if the signing of Doherty has resulted in any positives, it’s actually the influence on his rival, Serge Aurier.

Doherty’s arrival and the increased competition appears to have sharpened Serge Aurier’s focus. The Leicester mistake aside, the Ivorian has certainly cemented his mark as Tottenham’s best current right-back.

Doherty now has an uphill battle to turn his Tottenham career around. Let’s get one thing straight, he can by all means do it, he has the ability.

His story, so far, has been merely an interesting sub-plot to this crazy Premier League season.

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  1. It’s true that some players take time to settle in a new team/squad and indeed different playing styles may also affect performance and especially in new circumstances. But just as Hojbjerg was touted as critical to bolstering Tottenham’s defensive capabilities as a holding midfielder, so Doherty was considered a suitable candidate to solve their right (right wing) back issues as first choice. What has transpired however is that whilst Hojbjerg who has aside from an initial and somewhat shaky first game/start has simply and generally been outstanding in his role, a bonified and solid rock as it were. Doherty by contrast has struggled to make a significant impact in his own, and the much and often unfairly maligned Serge Aurier has evidenced that he is clearly the better equipped and more accomplished player and more often being preferred choice by Mourinho in this role. Given the rashness in Dohertys play at the weekend resulting in the vastly un-necessary red card he ultimately received he is simply handed further impetuous and opportunity to Aurier to further cement and establish his position as first choice here. Some suggest that Doherty’s problems stem from a positional change as right wing back to a more concentrated role as a more traditional right back, but whilst the emphasis on the former is perhaps geared to an overall more attacking formation the simple truth is their is little to differentiate between either role; both require the ability to defend and go forward when required. And players generally less equipped will find greater difficulty in adapting to fulfill these tactical changing requirements. In truth I was never entirely convinced that Doherty was the right signing option at the time especially when Tottenham were so strongly linked with the more youthful and arguably more dynamic Timothy Castagne who subsequently has proved his worth and merit in signing for close rivals Leicester over the summer. For me Levy simply did what Levy so often does in looking for the bargain but not necessarily the worth or the fit. I think Castagne would have been a similar hit as Regullion has proven to be and Spurs once again missed out on a tremendous talent despite him indicating a healthy desire to sign with us prior to being snapped up by Brendan Rodgers and the midland outfit. Whilst all that may be by the by it remains to be seen whether Doherty at 28yrs will be a suitable and successful fit wearing the Cockerel badge and under Mourinho’s distinctive tenure.


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