Tottenham End of Season Review: Danny Rose

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Danny Rose of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on March 13, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Danny Rose of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on March 13, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images) /

It’s no coincidence that Danny Rose’s reputation rose in harmony with Tottenham’s this past season.

The England left-back has enjoyed dramatic improvement every season since his loan to Sunderland in 2012/13. Prior to that loan move he was seen as a cross between winger, wing-back and full-back — much like his teammate Gareth Bale was in the early phases of his career. His failure to thrive in any one position left the impression that Tottenham might move on from Rose sooner rather than later.

His brief tenure in Sunderland lit the spark that continues to burn to this day. It’s no exaggeration to say that Rose was among the more important components of a side that — surprise — narrowly avoided relegation by the end of the season. The club even named him Young Player of the Season in hopes of arranging a permanent transfer from Tottenham.

Rose would return to north London the next season however, keen to prove that he’d come of age while on sojourn to Tyne and Wear.

While Rose earned the honor of Tottenham’s presumptive starting left-back, the years since his return haven’t always been even. His experience playing up and down the left flank came in hand, especially in tactical systems that encouraged aggressive wing play. The issue, up to this season at least, is that the desire to track back and do the yeoman’s work of defending wasn’t there as much as it should be.

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Ben Davies was brought in from Swansea ahead of the 2014/15 season to give Rose a bit of competition, as well as off-set Rose’s defensive inadequacies. The Welshman wasn’t as adventuresome going forward, but he could hold the line when required.

The move broadly worked. Davies could step in for games that might require a bit more of a presence on the defensive left, while Rose became a much more well-rounded version of a modern full-back.

The 2015/16 season saw this trend continue to evolve. Rose began the season injured, thus precluding him from participating in the opening four matches against Manchester United, Stoke City and Leicester.

Davies stepped in and proved that he too knew how to change his game. The defensive edge remained, but was now coupled with an increased drive to get forward in support of the attack. When Rose did return to training in late August, Pochettino had a serious decision to make.

Or, really, he didn’t. While the two men couldn’t feature on the same pitch simultaneously, Pochettino found that he had the liberty of choosing between two capable left-backs depending on the match. From August through to the New Year, Rose and Davies platooned in the position, featuring in 13 and 14 matches respectively in all competitions.

Whereas many of those appearances appeared to be dictated by the opposition — Davies tended to get the games that might feature more attacks from down the wing, for instance — Pochettino evidently gained enough confidence by January to adjust this rotation.

As Tottenham grew into their status as one of the best teams in the league, and as matches in the FA Cup and Europa League piled up, Pochettino often switched back and fourth between sets of full-backs with less concern for who fit best where. Rose and Kyle Walker — who were still the club’s presumptive starting wide defenders — would take turns with Davies and Kieran Trippier, and it was clear that Pochettino came to believe that all four were capable of fitting into Tottenham’s need on virtually any occasion.

Related Story: Who Should Tottenham Start: Danny Rose or Ben Davies?

And so it came that the full-back rotation came down to something more than pragmatism. While Pochettino demanded much of several other position players — Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Harry Kane in particular — he knew that what he asked of his full-backs game to game could not be sustained over a 50+ match season.

Rose and Walker would need spells of rest to make it through what felt like then could have been a climatic end to the season. Rose took these rests in stride, and made the most of his chances on the pitch.

The defensive improvement was there — helped in no small part by Dier’s presence in deep midfield allowing Jan Vertonghen to play a bit wider — but the real value came in his energy getting forward. With both Chrisitain Eriksen and Dele Alli preferring to operate in more central areas, Rose became Tottenham’s de facto winger when in possession.

Next: Tottenham Season Review: Kyle Walker

Like Walker on the opposite flank, there’s still some questions lingering about Rose’s ability when he’s actually in a dangerous area. At times he seems caught between one extra pass or a shot on goal, and even when he ends up choosing neither tends to look like the right choice.

Still, there’s no downplaying the value of having a marauding full-back. It pulls defenses wide and tempers the desire of opposing full-backs to rush up the pitch themselves. Rose does both of those things, while also holding his own off the ball. It’s safe to say that Rose is Tottenham’s clear first choice left-back for the foreseeable future.

Final Grade: B