Opinion: Tottenham Hotspur and full-backs – The most unhappy marriage

Emerson Royal
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Watching Kyle Walker and Danny Rose bomb down the White Hart Lane wings for years was simply joyful.

It was so entertaining to watch that no one seemed to mind that Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier, who had far less ability, were their understudies.

But fast-forward a few years, and Spurs’ full-back situation is as bad as I can remember. So where has it all gone wrong?

Naturally, finding adequate replacements for Rose and Walker was always going to be tough. The two had such pace, and in Rose’s case, possessed such a grittiness in defensive situations.

It is, of course, difficult to find defenders who can both attack and defend in equal measure. But if Antonio Conte is decisive about playing with wing-backs, it is inexplicable that Spurs do not currently have a left or right-back who is a talented attacker. 

Looking at Spurs’ recent transfer activity in this area of the pitch, there appears to be a trend. There are two exceptions though.

Kieran Trippier served the club well for a few years, and his drop-off was completely unforeseen. With regards to Matt Doherty, most fans agreed that this was a positive signing. What has happened to the former Wolves man since is quite remarkable.

But the other three signings that Spurs have made in this department since 2017 all have something key in common. All of Serge Aurier, Sergio Reguilon, and Emerson Royal have been signed from a European powerhouse.

However, what must be stressed is that none of these full-backs found any sort of success within the club that paid their wages.

Serge Aurier was maligned at Paris Saint-Germain, and by all accounts, was a bad egg in the club.

Reguilon only made 14 La Liga appearances for Real Madrid, and despite having Los Blancos on his CV, was signed off the back of a loan spell at Sevilla.

And last summer, Emerson Royal was taken off of Barcelona’s hands, but only managed three appearances at Nou Camp. Instead, he spent two seasons on loan at Real Betis. 

And far from being exempt in this disaster, Spurs’ new Director of Football Fabio Paratici was the man who signed Royal. Rather than change the club’s ways, he has carried on this theme of making signings who, on the surface, appear lavish, but in reality, have fallen flat. 

Yes, it may be slightly too early to judge two of these players. But one only had to look at the plethora of chances that both Reguilon and Royal had to deliver dangerous crosses into the box to see how short we are in quality.

No other top side has this issue. All of Manchester City, through Joao Cancelo, Chelsea, in Ben Chilwell and Reece James, and Liverpool, from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have players of extreme talent. The Spurs’ pair just doesn’t compare.

I believe Spurs’ are currently operating in a ‘computer-game mentality’, where any player will do, so long as the club they represent is successful.

It is no secret that Daniel Levy is trying to compete in the same space as these aforementioned clubs (see European Super League debacle).

So it appears that, in order to do this, he is attempting to fish in these same ponds, without signing the players that have made these teams so successful. It’s like being a carnivore and visiting a steak restaurant, only to then order the fish dish. 

In the future, Spurs must do better in making signings that actually help the team, and the manager who is making the decisions on the pitch.

They cannot afford to waste money on players, especially with how tight the purse strings appear to be during every transfer window.

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