Table-topping Tottenham Hotspur have regained their defensive stability of late, with just one goal conceded in their last four league matches. A key part of that mean streak – Toby Alderweireld – has potentially been stripped away for a tricky run of fixtures, after the Belgian went off injured in the 2-0 win over Manchester City.
It means it’s time for either former club-record signing Davinson Sanchez or new-kid-on-the-block Joe Rodon, to step up and stake a claim for a place in manager Jose Mourinho’s long-term plans at Spurs.
Rodon and Sanchez to Battle For Place Alongside Resurgent Eric Dier
Rodon Preferred in Recent Games as Late Defensive Replacement Whilst Sanchez Struggling for Game Time
The early signs certainly point towards Wales international Rodon being Mourinho’s preferred option to replace Alderweireld.
While Rodon came off the bench against City, Sanchez wasn’t even involved in the matchday squad.
Sanchez’s involvement in international duty with Colombia can’t be used as an excuse, either. Alderweireld would likely have played the full 90 minutes against City had he not sustained an abductor injury, despite being heavily involved in Belgium’s games.
Indeed, the last game Sanchez started was Tottenham’s miserable 1-0 defeat away to Royal Antwerp in the Europa League.
Since then, Tottenham have tightened up considerably at the back. Clean sheets have started becoming the norm again. Saturday’s masterful defensive display against an admittedly misfiring Manchester City side was evidence of that.
Rodon did not look out of place when coming on against Pep Guardiola’s side. However, it’s worth noting City’s best chance – a Ruben Dias header – came after Alderweireld’s departure.
Dier Hails ‘Fantastic’ Rodon
The man who either Rodon or Sanchez will be joining at the heart of the Spurs defence, Eric Dier, has recently spoken of Rodon’s arrival at the club – and it seems the England international is impressed by what he’s seen so far as he told football.london:
“From what I can see, he’s very humble, very hard-working. He has a fantastic mentality to want to work, to improve.
“From what I’ve seen [of him] around the training ground, all of those things have been fantastic, and I know the Welsh boys Ben [Davies] and Gareth [Bale] speak very highly of him. So excited for him to be able to help the team.”
Europa League Offers Sanchez Best Chance at Salvaging Spurs Career
Rodon, then, has the upper hand in terms of playing in the Premier League. However, one thing he can’t control is squad registration. The Welshman isn’t eligible for the group stage of the Europa League, having signed after the competition began. This means Sanchez’s best chance at forcing his way into Mourinho’s plans will likely come in Europe’s second-tier competition.
It is arguably a turning point for the Colombian at Spurs. Since signing for a then-club-record £42 million in 2017, the former Ajax man has failed to kick on and fulfil his undoubted potential. While physically excellent, there are concerns that he isn’t developing his tactical awareness of the game.
However, should Rodon fail to impress in the Premier League, then Sanchez should be able to step in. That will of course be dependent on Sanchez’s performances in the Europa League.
Spurs’ fixture list means the games are coming thick and fast. With crucial matches against Chelsea, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Leicester City on the horizon, both Rodon and Sanchez must see this as an opportunity to cement their place as first-choice centre-back throughout Alderweireld’s absence.