Tottenham “Man of the Match”: Serge Aurier

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Serge Aurier of Tottenham is dismissed during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at London Stadium on September 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Serge Aurier of Tottenham is dismissed during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at London Stadium on September 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) /

With another two goals, Harry Kane was unquestionably the biggest factor in Tottenham’s 2-3 win at West Ham. Another man’s actions more accurately embody a wild London derby however.

Serge Aurier arrived at Tottenham on the final day of the transfer window with no shortage of baggage in tow. Both on and off the field, the Ivorian finds a way to create drama.

A fantastic start in the Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund plus some fine substitute appearances assuaged many Spurs’ fans doubts about the right-back. Even if his time in London thus far has been brief, it could be argued that Aurier is an upgrade over the man he replaced, Kyle Walker.

That’s down to some excellent two way play from the former Paris Saint Germain man. Even playing at wing-back, Aurier has found a way to unravel opposition attacks and keep opposing wingers boxed in. That he still manages to balance that out with some exceptional runs into the final third only solidifies the impression that he is money well spent.

Aurier’s first Premier League start came Saturday, in a fixture that’s proved unlucky for Spurs in the previous two seasons. Mauricio Pochettino entrusted him with helping to shoulder that burden, and to his credit Aurier handled it with ease.

Indeed, it’s entirely fair to say that Aurier was the only standout member of the Tottenham starting XI in the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s match. While West Ham once again corralled Spurs’ midfield and forced mistakes from the defense, Aurier was the picture of calm.

He tracked back to check the runs of Marko Arnautović — even providing a last ditch sliding tackle that stripped the ball off the Austrian’s feet right in front of Hugo Lloris’ goal.

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In attack he regularly bombed forward, with one of his crosses narrowly missing an offsides Harry Kane. When Spurs’ midfield got hold of the ball, more of than not their best option was to deliver it to Aurier out wide on the right.

Michail Antonio’s injury — and Andy Carroll’s subsequent introduction — proved the first turning point of the match. With West Ham deprived of their most incisive attacker, Spurs could push up and get the defense and midfield back to their usual purr. Two goals from Kane followed, and by half-time it seemed as if Spurs would stroll to a relieving win.

Only Aurier’s day wasn’t done yet. While his teammates bossed West Ham around, Aurier continued to diligently run the length of the touchline. Just as they were in the first half, his challenges were forceful but never so blatant as to warrant a yellow card.

By the 64th minute, his luck had run out. Michael Oliver showed him the first yellow of the match for a harsh challenge in Spurs’ half.

Javier Hernández scored one minute later, though it was a goal that came well against the run of play. Aurier’s caution still hardly seemed to matter.

But tempers had flared, as they are wont to do in these derbies, and West Ham looked for a second. In the heat of another moment, Aurier went in clumsily against Carroll — thereby earning a dismissal with his second yellow card of the day.

The two moments were separated by less than ten minutes , and came perilously close to undoing all of Aurier’s good work from the first half.

With a man advantage and 20 minutes left to play, West Ham came at Spurs. It seemed at first as if Pochettino’s boys had the matter under control. The addition of Harry Winks crowded midfield, and first Moussa Sissoko then Kieran Trippier manned Aurier’s spot on the right of the defense.

Inevitably though, West Ham’s second goal came from Cheikhou Kouyaté after Arthur Masuaku — unburdened by having to shake off Aurier — found room on Spurs’ defensive left to send a cross to the far post.

Thereafter Spurs were fighting for their lives, and came close to conceding the equalizer. They would pull off the win regardless, but Aurier’s mistakes made it just about as difficult as possible for the visiting team.

Next: West Ham 2 - 3 Tottenham

And so it was that, over the course of 70 minutes, Tottenham witnessed the full spectrum of Aurier. They saw the competence and poise that earned him a move to PSG then Tottenham. And they also saw the recklessness that soured so many to arrival at the club in August.

For better and for worse, Aurier was the defining personality of this match.