Since Spurs sold Kyle Walker to Manchester City for a then world record fee for a defender, it has been unclear whether or not the Lillywhites will sign a right back to replace him, or keep Kieran Trippier as first choice, with youngster Kyle Walker-Peters as backup. However, in their last friendly against Juventus, a week before the season starts, Trippier picked up an injury that is likely to see him miss the start of the campaign.
It leaves Walker-Peters as the only genuine right back available for selection.
As talented as the youngster is, the academy graduate is yet to play a single minute of professional football at any level. Starting him in the season opener away to Newcastle for a side aiming to win the league is certainly throwing him straight into the deep end.
Not only that, it is arguably poor preparation from Tottenham Hotspur.
Mauricio Pochettino has already said it is too soon for Walker-Peters to replace the injured Trippier outright, so it’s clear another right back was needed from the moment it looked inevitable Kyle Walker was leaving.
However, Spurs now look likely to enter the new season without a first choice right back. Here are some options they could go with.
4-2-3-1: Eric Dier at RB
This seems the most likely, safe option, but it’s far from ideal.
Eric Dier has filled in at right back on a number of occasions for Spurs before and performed well by all accounts. He is a solid defender who has decent pace and energy, meaning he can support the attack. Not only that, Dier is excellent technically and has a wonderful cross on him.
However, with Victor Wanyama also likely to be inured, playing Dier at right back means Spurs are without a recognised defensive midfielder and will be forced to play with a Harry Winks and Mousa Dembele pivot.
Building play from deep should be smooth, with Winks and Dembele both excellent on the ball and progressive midfielders. However, there is a worry they will get overrun due to the lack of a recognised holding midfielder as neither are particularly defensive.
With Son injured too it means Spurs are forced into playing Moussa Sissoko on the right flank in a 4-2-3-1, or Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, who Pochettino seemingly doesn’t trust.
3-4-2-1: Moussa Sissoko at RWB
This would be somewhat experimental and unlikely. Sissoko may have the physical qualities to play as a wing back, but he certainly hasn’t shown the tactical flexibility and defensive knowhow to be an option there.
However, he was deployed as a right wing back away to Leicester City last season, where he was relatively untested, and Spurs won that game 6-1 and the formation has worked well for them in that past.
Sissoko also played this role in the final friendly against Juventus, which Spurs won 2-0, and the Frenchman played fairly well, even having a hand in the build up to both goals The presence of Dier as a third centre-back removes some of Sissoko’s defensive responsibility and gives him a sturdier platform to attack.
Wing backs have to be excellent on the ball, however, and provide quality from out wide. The 27-year-old isn’t the best technically and would have to have one of his better games for this to work.
Furthermore, the Winks-Dembele midfield pivot is a problem. If anything, there’s more emphasis on the defensive solidity of the duo in a 3-4-3, as they protect the defence and allow the wing backs to attack. They’re crucial to the functioning of the formation and a soft midfield won’t allow for success.
Play Kyle Walker-Peters
Perhaps the comments from Pochettino were a bluff, designed to throw Newcastle off or to even encourage Daniel Levy to open his wallet?
Managers give false information about their ideas and teams all the time, and with no other recognised right back, the Argentine will certainly consider giving the youngster his debut.
Walker-Peters is superb technically, and is brilliant at defending one-on-one situations. He also has the pace, energy, and dribbling ability that Pochettino loves his full backs to have, as they are often the only players who hug the touch line and provide the width.
Not only that, Walker-Peters is just as comfortable at both right back, as he is right wing back, meaning Pochettino could use, or switch between, either of his favoured formations.
Of course, though, it would be a risk. Walker-Peters has never played a minute of first team football and it is yet to be seen if he can make the step up. However, Pochettino has given youth a chance before, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he done so again away to Newcastle this Sunday.
Sign a new RB
It goes without saying that Spurs have actually had this option the entire time. They have money, they’re an attractive proposition and there are affordable right backs in the market, no matter the scaremongering from inflated transfer fees.
Whether Levy can get himself into gear and negotiate a fee and a contract within a few days to have the new man available for Sunday is a massive if and an unlikely one at that. Pochettino, prefers to ease his new signings into the fray anyway.
It’s been an option the entire time, but one Spurs seem reluctant to indulge.
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