In an eleventh-hour twist, Tottenham Hotspur have confirmed that they have terminated the contract of Serge Aurier.
Before Emerson’s confirmation, there were rumours of Tottenham attempting a swap deal with Barcelona for Aurier. The deal fell through, with Barcelona presumably unimpressed with the Ivorian’s defensive capabilities or footballing nous.
With no other suitors coming forward this late in the day, Tottenham have taken it upon themselves to end their four-year association with the player.
Tottenham Hotspur Terminate Serge Aurier Contract
The Club can confirm the departure of Serge Aurier following the mutual termination of his contract.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) August 31, 2021
Surplus to Requirements
Nuno Espirito Santo has long made it plain to Daniel Levy and Fabricio Paratici that the Ivorian is not part of his plans. Even before the events of Transfer Deadline Day, Espirito Santo had a clear view of what he wanted from his defenders. Aurier was never going to be able to match those expectations.
Santo built his promotion-achieving, Europe-appearing Wolves sides on strong foundations from the back. Whether it was a back three/five, or the flat-four seen at Tottenham this August, defenders needed to first be defenders.
Wing-backs could not hide any defensive frailties under the guise of attacking threat. The priority was for cross-blocking, line-holding, strong-tackling players that would not take a step back. Based on the previous four years, Tottenham fans were doubting whether Aurier would be able to meet such requirements.
Before a Premier League ball had been kicked in anger, Santo had a hierarchy in his mind. The decision to elevate Japhet Tanganga over a more positionally familiar Matt Doherty, with whom he worked at Wolves, may have caught some fans by surprise. But Aurier was always destined to be a third choice.
The arrival of Emerson Royal further demotes him. Aurier does not even possess enough attacking wherewithal to reposition himself in a more forward role. Even with participation in the Europa Conference League, Aurier would be struggling for game time.
Serge in Defensive Frailty: Chequered History
It’s fair to say that Serge Aurier has hardly set the world alight in North London. His £25 million arrival from Paris Saint-Germain was mired in controversy from the start. He had made previous homophobic comments about his teammates and then-manager Laurent Blanc. He never satisfactorily resolved the issue, releasing a non-apology that lacked in resolve almost as much as his defensive efforts.
His time at Tottenham was characterised by defensive uncertainty and positional incomprehension. His clear attacking preference never compensated for poor acumen at the back. He often gave away needless penalties, and that was when he was in position.
More often than not, he was missing by a margin of coordinates, requiring centre-halves to cover the wide areas. This inevitably had a detrimental impact on the overall defensive record.
It’s most notable that Tottenham’s defensive issues began with the departure of Kieran Trippier in 2019, and the need to play Aurier more regularly. It begot a poor start under Mauricio Pochettino and the subsequent dark days under Jose Mourinho.
He arrived just six months before Lucas Moura, from the same club, for the same fee. Positional differences aside, it’s difficult to comprehend the stark contrast of impact between the two.
Aurier Out: Now or Never
With recent acquisitions and a ‘mixed’ record, it is little wonder that the Tottenham staff are keen to move Serge Aurier on. The fact that they are not even willing to wait until January in the hope of a buyer speaks volumes of their thinking.
For Tottenham, a termination may work better in the short and long term. If a mutual agreement can be agreed upon, then the club will save money on future wages. An upfront payment now would also reduce the outgoings on the financial fair play spreadsheets. This may come in handy were the club to renegotiate contracts with their star players, for example, a world-class striker that they are keen to keep at White Hart Lane.
Removing Aurier now also has the advantage of bolstering squad harmony. Aurier never had the influence of Moussa Sissoko and was not actively seeking to undermine the team like some wantaway players. But having an individual relegated to the bench, publicly ostracised by the leadership, would be bound to cause discontent. Far better to remove potential trouble now, even at an immediate financial cost.