Premier League

Stats show Walker-Peters is ready to take over from shambolic Aurier

 • by Tom Bodell
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There was a moment early in Tottenham Hotspur‘s 7-2 annihilation by Bayern Munich which perfectly encapsulated Serge Aurier‘s time in North London.

Having been tackled by Bayern full-back David Alaba, Aurier jumped up to avoid colliding with the Austrian. In doing so, he inadvertently came crashing down on Alaba’s thigh and hip.

Aurier’s intentions were good, but the outcome was not. It’s the story of his time at Spurs.

Three days earlier the 26-year-old was dismissed for two bookings collected in the space of four minutes against Southampton. The first was for a fairly clumsy challenge on Sofiane Boufal out near the touchline. The second was for a needless shove. Both were entirely avoidable.

With that dismissal preceding his shambolic showing against Bayern in the Champions League, it’s hard to see how Aurier gets back into Mauricio Pochettino’s starting once he’s served his suspension.

Yet thanks to the decision to push Kieran Trippier out the door over the summer, right-back has gone from being a position of relative strength to one of real weakness for Tottenham.

It was painfully obvious last season that Pochettino did not trust Aurier to start games regularly as he persisted with Trippier despite his failure to replicate his England form. The former Paris Saint-Germain defender was afforded just six Premier League starts, completing 90 minutes on just four occasions.

He had to wait until September 14 to make his first Premier League appearance of the season with Kyle Walker-Peters, Davinson Sanchez, Moussa Sissoko all preferred at various points.

Meanwhile, young centre-back Juan Foyth impressed there for Argentina over the summer with coach Lionel Scaloni of the belief it will become his long-term position.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Serge Aurier in Champions League action vs. Borussia Dortmund

However, it had looked as though Aurier would leave during the transfer window and, while on international duty, he told Bal des Productions: “What competition? There isn’t any.

“I’d simply decided to leave [this summer], which was normal for me. Many things were taken into consideration. In the end, I wasn’t able to leave. It proves the club trust me on a lot of points, and we’ll see.

When he finally made it onto the field, Aurier played like he had a point to prove, scoring one and making another in the 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace.

Speaking to Sky Sports afterward, Pochettino praised the Ivorian but highlighted the need for greater consistency in his game.

“I think he was very happy. We were very happy too,” the Tottenham manager said. “I think the performance was great. First half was fantastic, his concentration and focus.

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“Now he needs to show and be consistent. It’s not only one game and the second game the focus and intensity start to drop. That is the key in our team, not only him but all the players.”

That could not have been more pertinent on Tuesday night. Aurier’s accidental stamp on Alaba was just the start of a nightmarish evening which underlined precisely why Pochettino has been reluctant to use him regularly.

The fact four of Bayern’s goals were scored by Serge Gnabry, playing down Aurier’s side, speaks volumes. For almost all of them, Aurier was caught horribly out of position while it was his atrocious misplaced pass which eventually led to Gnabry planting his fourth of the night beyond the despairing dive of Hugo Lloris.

But this is nothing new. The defensive side of Aurier’s game has always been questionable and it’s why he was never able to displace Trippier as Pochettino’s first-choice right-back, even when the ‘Bury Beckham’ was enduring his worst season in North London.

Aurier’s propensity to switch off, make rash decisions and get caught out positionally renders him a liability. Though, like plenty of modern full-backs, his pace and attacking threat make him a good highlight player.

The performances of Sánchez at right-back suggest he isn’t the short or long-term solution while Argentine youngster Foyth is currently injured. That leaves Walker-Peters, a natural right-back, as the prime candidate to take over from Aurier.

Frankly, it’s a little baffling the England Under-21 international has been left out in the cold for so long anyway.

Tottenham Hotspur pair Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters compared statistically

The two have played a similar number of minutes this season (Walker-Peters, 242 vs. Aurier, 211) but it’s the homegrown defender who has the edge in most key defensive metrics.

In fact, it’s only interceptions where Aurier comes out on top (3.41 vs. 1.12). Walker-Peters attempts (2.98) and wins (1.86) more tackles and is successful is more defensive duels (7.44 vs. 6.82). He also regains possession more frequently in the defensive third – 3.35 times per 90 vs. 1.28.

Even in possession, which is the stronger side of Aurier’s game, Walker-Peters has a numerical edge. He attempts (68.8 vs. 51.61) and completes (60.25 vs. 41.8) more total passes, more in the final third (18.6 vs. 14.93) and more forward passes (19.71 vs. 14.93).

So why is Pochettino holding Walker-Peters back? The answer might be something which is hard to quantify: his development. The 22-year-old has just nine Premier League starts to his name since making an impressive debut at Newcastle United in 2017.

The Argentine tactician is a shrewd nurturer of talent and will doubtless taken heed of how Jürgen Klopp’s handling of Trent Alexander-Arnold has seen the Liverpool defender flourish to become one of the Premier League’s best in his position.

Short-term pain for long-term gain. That’s the hope Tottenham fans must cling to.

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