Opinion: The solution to the Spurs right-back dilemma

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Spurs have defensive problems. Water is wet and the buses run late, what else is new?

That statement is over-used and it’s true but there is one problem that doesn’t seem to be easy to solve and that lies at right back.

Serge Aurier is still capable of making costly errors that can throw away games and Matt Doherty just does not fit into a Mourinho system. He’s a wing-back and we’ve seen a 3-man defensive line with attacking wing-backs fail too many times at Spurs to believe that it can work.

So what should Mourinho do?

Aurier is decent, but a back-up option at best, and Doherty is a square peg for a round hole. We all know even Jose can’t make three centre backs work at Tottenham, so what can work?

It’s a toughie but this writer believes that the solution lies at Carrow Road. You know where I’m going with this… Max Aarons.

Now before you hit me with that ‘he got relegated’ stuff, hear me out. I’m going to throw in a few numbers here so bear with me (I’ve used only Premier League stats to make a fair comparison).

In his first season in the top-flight, Aarons averaged 0.8 blocks per 90 which is significantly better than our first choice right-back Aurier averaged last season (0.2) and our back up Matt Doherty (0.1).

Aarons also averaged 1.3 tackles per 90 (whoscored.com) which is mighty impressive considering that he was a 19-year-old at the start of the season.

Apart from defensive merit, Max Aarons also has an attacking streak in him. During the 2019-20 season, Aarons averaged 1.3 dribbles per 90 and 0.6 key passes per game as compared to 1.2 and 1 respectively for Serge Aurier and 0.8 and 0.6 for Matt Doherty.

Most importantly, he was sent off a grand total of 0 times. Aarons tends to avoid jumping into tackles and relies on his pace to get back and make a block instead, which enables him to avoid giving silly free-kicks and conceding penalties.

Giving away cheap set-pieces is Serge Aurier’s Achilles heel and, at 29, it seems as though this will continue to be a feature of his game.

Matt Doherty is, from no fault of his own, unsuitable for a traditional Mourinho system. He is best played at right wing-back with three behind him but, in spite of Mourinho’s defensive nous, that’s a set up that has failed far too many times at Spurs (one memorable night at Dortmund notwithstanding).

So trying to fit him in at right-back and expecting him to perform at the same level as he did at Wolves is rather unfair. And for all his improvement since the arrival of Matt Doherty, Aurier just doesn’t shape up as a first choice right back at a cub competing for trophies on four fronts at the highest level.

Now, Max Aarons is far from the finished product, but at just 21 he has a far higher ceiling than Serge Aurier. Reported interest from Bavarian giants Bayern Munich points to the massive potential the lad has.

He has shown remarkable defensive ability and attacking instinct at the highest level for a player so young and, with the legendary defensive ideology of Jose Mourinho to guide him, I believe that Max Aarons could go on to become a stalwart at right-back for Tottenham.

We know the demand for English youngsters is high in the football market and it’s only a matter of time before reported interest from European clubs leads to a concrete offer.

Therefore, it would be a wise move for Daniel Levy and Mourinho to sign Max Aarons before someone else comes knocking. Let him slip away and be prepared to see him ripping it up in the UCL while we rely on square pegs and rash tackle specialists.

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