Spurs’ Loanee Yedlin Can Follow in Rose’s Footsteps at Sunderland

Jul 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Tottenham Hotspur defender DeAndre Yedlin (12) plays the ball during the second half of the 2015 MLS All Star Game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. MLS All Stars defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Tottenham Hotspur defender DeAndre Yedlin (12) plays the ball during the second half of the 2015 MLS All Star Game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. MLS All Stars defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

After half a season on the roster for Spurs, DeAndre Yedlin looks to be the closest he’s ever been to getting real Premier League minutes. Before the summer transfer window opened it seemed as if those minutes would eventually come with Tottenham, especially after Kyle Naughton was sold to Swansea in January.

The arrival of former Burnley’s standout right-back Kieran Trippier over the summer and Kyle Walker’s impressive early season form appeared to knock Yedlin down to third on the position’s depth chart however. A loan move seemed most likely, though it didn’t materialize until the last day of the transfer window. On September 1st, Yedlin packed his bags for Sunderland.

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The last player Tottenham loaned out to Sunderland was also a full-back. Danny Rose joined in 2012 and went on to make a case for being Sunderland’s best player of the season. It was a career-igniting experience and Rose returned to Tottenham as the presumptive starting left-back, a distinction he’s held ever since.

Prior to that loan, however, Rose was largely an afterthought in Tottenham’s set up. Yes, he scored that goal against Arsenal, but that was the brightest highlight over three years and barely 700 minutes played in Tottenham’s first team plus a handful of loans to teams outside of the Premier League. At best, it was thought, his ability to play both on the right wing and at right-back would make him a valuable utility player.

Yedlin’s story isn’t quite the same, though there are still lessons to be learned. He was brought into the club from MLS side Seattle Sounders after he made an impressive debut with the US men’s national team at the 2014 Men’s World Cup in Brazil. As much talent as Yedlin evidently had, the club took it slow with the 21-year-old. He was given a season to adjust to life in London and playing in English football, almost exclusively in the club’s under-21 development team. His one appearance so far for Tottenham’s first team came as a sub in the 79th minute of the 1-0 home loss to Aston Villa last spring.

He continued to feature for Jürgen Klinsmann’s United States team throughout his transition at Tottenham, though in a slightly different manner than in the World Cup. Yedlin’s talents at getting forward from a right-back’s traditional position made his transition higher up the field a natural fit. He now regularly features on the right wing of the United States’ attack.

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That versatility is a trait Yedlin shares with Rose and it was no doubt a key reason behind Sunderland’s interest in the young American. Tottenham’s ambitions for the player no doubt remain at right-back, but he’s young enough that he might still prove himself in a more attacking role at club level.

He’s unlikely to unseat Adam Johnson on the right side of Dick Advocaat’s three-man attacking midfield anytime soon, though given the England international’s legal troubles and general unevenness it’s not impossible that Yedlin is thought of as a potential understudy for the role.

For now, it’s much more likely that Yedlin finds minutes in his more familiar right-back role. So far this season that flank of the defense has been manned mostly-anonymously by Billy Jones. The player, like many of his teammates, has failed to turn in a convincing argument in the first four games of the season. Yedlin could start there as early as his first eligible game for Sunderland when the club travels to Bournemouth a week from Sunday’s game against Tottenham.

Given the opportunities he has with Sunderland, how high exactly is Yedlin’s ceiling this season? Like Rose before him, Yedlin is a marauding presence at right-back, anxious to find an excuse to move forward into a more attacking role when the team is in possession. Such runs are much easier to punish in the environs of the Premier League however, so Yedlin will have to adjust his defensive mindset early in order to keep from losing his place.

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  • That’s a side of the game with which even Rose has struggled. He seemed to find a suitable balance only last season, though when he did he arguably became one of Tottenham’s more crucial players.

    For Yedlin to follow a similar path to Rose, he’ll need to glean a valuable lesson from Rose’s time at Sunderland. It was evident not too far into Rose’s 28 appearances for the club that he was among the better players on the squad. He could have let that intimidate him or, worse, let it make him complacent. With no real competition, Rose could have dropped to at or slightly above the level of those around him and still been guaranteed minutes every week.

    Instead, he played the best game he could. He treated his time there less as an audition to play for Sunderland week in and week out and more as an audition to play for Tottenham week in and week out. He passed and went on to become the vital member of the Spurs squad he is today.

    Should he be given the chance, Yedlin should recognize that it came not as what he’s owed, but rather as the generous gift that it is. He should outplay not just Billy Jones but also Adam Johnson. Those aren’t outlandish goals for a player with as much potential as he has. He should, come May of next year, have made a case for a promotion up Tottenham’s right-back depth chart, perhaps even to the top of it. It’s no foregone conclusion, of course, but it’s not unprecedented.

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