Have a search on Twitter for “fullback whisperer” and you will find the unending adulation of Spurs fans towards Mauricio Pochettino. His rapid development of, first at Southampton, Luke Shaw, Callum Chambers, and now Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier has been remarkable. Hope for the future of Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters is quite high, despite the former’s ugly start.
But as a former centre-back himself it’s slightly surprising that it is wide defenders that he is most closely associated with as a coach.
On Tuesday many Tottenham fans will have tuned in to watch Colombia. A chance to get a sight of rumoured target Wilmar Barrios, and to see familiar face Davinson Sanchez. But he failed to turn in a familiar performance.
There’s no doubt that Carlos’ Sanchez 3rd minute red card had a significant impact on the remaining ten men’s games but it was Davinson’s fluffed clearance that led Carlos to reactively, illegally throw out his arm and stop the on-target shot.
Davinson picked up the second highest negative score for errors in the game behind the red-card receiver, leaving him a total of only 724 or 7.6 points per minute.
Compare that with his debut Premier League season of 13.22 ppm and, while this is a small sample to operate from for now, there looks to be a clear downgrade at international level.
No doubt Davinson’s single season at Ajax, that earned him his transfer to North London, can only be seen as a positive when looking at it as a whole but there were severe limitations in his passing ability. A weakness that has largely dissipated during his time under Pochettino.
This is not the first time Spurs fans will have seen something like this. When Jan Vertonghen spent 16 games out with a knee injury during the 15/16 season in stepped Kevin Wimmer.
Impressed with how well the Austrian deputised, there was speculation among the fanbase there would be difficulty for Vertonghen to reclaim his place.
The Belgian said, “I have to thank the gaffer for his confidence in me, because Kevin has been outstanding, together with Toby they’ve been unbelievable, they kept the run going like we were doing until I was out against Palace. They kept it going, so big compliments to them.”
Two years later with Wimmer having seemingly fallen out with Pochettino before being moved on to Stoke things aren’t so great for him.
12.04 points per minute isn’t a bad score, even compared to Jan Vertonhen’s 15.92. But failure to secure regular starts for a relegated side paints a bad picture. Worse still, he has been moved on from the club out on loan to Hannover 96 with a clause for a permanent move.
All this raises the question as to whether Pochettino’s magic mystique is not just for full-backs, but more central defenders too.
If so this sends a message to one Matthijs de Ligt who is reportedly receiving offers from a variety of top European clubs, including Tottenham. Should Spurs fail to land the dutchman, though, they can have confidence in Pochettino’s ability to dramatically improve the game of a lower-regarded target.