Davinson Sanchez Coming of Age for Tottenham Hotspur Defense

ANTWERPEN, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 29: (L-R) Lior Refaelov of Royal Antwerp FC, Davinson Sanchez of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Europa League match between Royal Antwerp v Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Angelo Blankespoor/Soccrates/Getty Images)
ANTWERPEN, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 29: (L-R) Lior Refaelov of Royal Antwerp FC, Davinson Sanchez of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Europa League match between Royal Antwerp v Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Angelo Blankespoor/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Like everyone at Bill Nicholson Way this season, it has been an up-and-down ride for Tottenham Hotspur defender Davinson Sanchez. After a strong start, followed by a rough patch, Davinson Sanchez has re-established himself in the Tottenham defense and maybe growing into the defender he was expected to be when he was brought from Ajax less than four years ago. So what is going right now for the young defender that Tottenham can build upon moving forward?

Sanchez has Always Shown Tottenham Promise

Since arriving at Tottenham from Ajax in August 2017, Davinson Sanchez has shown much potential. At almost 1.9 meters and built like a rock, Sanchez is a specimen in the defense who has historically gotten by as much on his athleticism as anything.  The one area of concern was the tendency in the past to make a rash challenge from time-to-time.

On average per 90 minutes, Sanchez still fouls more than either Eric Dier or Toby Alderweireld, but he also does a lot else more than either Dier or Alderweireled as well. In fact, it is because Sanchez has such a different skill set than either the Englishman or Belgian that he is a must right now in the Tottenham defense. However, that has not always been the way this season.

Sanchez fell out of the rotation

Davinson Sanchez had been a lynchpin in the early season success of Tottenham Hotspur. Whether it was in Europa League or the Premier League, Sanchez was playing and was typically playing well. Then West Ham came. There was the own goal and Spurs capitulation.

Whether Sanchez lost confidence in himself, the coach lost confidence in Sanchez, or something else altogether happened, Davinson Sanchez more or less disappeared. After the West Ham draw Sanchez was not selected for eight of the next nine Premier League matches and the one he was on the sheet for, he was an unused substitute.

Notably on the personal side Sanchez’ wife was in the late stages of pregnancy during this time and gave birth to the couple’s first child on December 3. Or at least that is when Sanchez tweeted about it.

While Sanchez was still playing in Europa League during November and December, it was not until late 2020/early 2021 that Sanchez began to be reintegrated into the Tottenham back four in the Premier League. Over the last two months, Sanchez has gone from the speculation of being transferred to nearly undroppable. Now that Sanchez is back, it seems he will be a permanent fixture on the right for a couple of reasons.

Dier and Alderweireld are too much alike

Both Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld have similar approaches to football. They are players who thrive on things like timing, great positioning, taking good angles, and defensive awareness. This results in more clearances and blocks for both men than Sanchez gets, but neither can provide the on-ball defense that the Columbian does.

Sanchez excels at pressuring defensively

Davinson Sanchez averages over nine pressures per 90 minutes, whereas Alderweireld averages less than eight and Dier just over six. Factor in that Sanchez also has a higher pressure success percentage and you begin to realize how important Sanchez’s role is on the team. Typically it is Davinson Sanchez who is both running with the opposition’s more dangerous player.

The responsibilities covering players who tend to get on the ball a lot also leads to a lot of tackles. Sanchez excels at tackling dribbles, contesting nearly 1.5 dribbles per 90 minutes, nearly equal to Dier and Alderweireld combined. Whether it is a tackle, an interception, a block, or something else, Sanchez recovers the ball for Tottenham, averaging more than 10 ball recoveries per 90.

Davinson Sanchez is a better passer than you think

Now that Sanchez has settled in as the right-sided center-back his ability on the ball has been improving. Sanchez does not ping the ball around the park the wayToby does, but he is not a terrible passer and has some real strengths.

First, Sanchez typically has an impeccable touch. Sanchez successfully receives 98.9% of all passes that come to him, which is best among Spurs’ three main center-halves. Of the three Sanchez has the best overall pass completion percentage at 87.20% overall. Interestingly when you break that down, it is in the medium and long-range passes that Sanchez really excel.s

Davinson Sanchez completes a higher percentage of his long passes – over 25 yards – and medium passes – 10-25 yards – than any other center back on the team. His 93.5% success rate on those medium passes is often seen in the balls he zips up to the feet of Lucas Moura, Harry Kane, and Gareth Bale on the right. The Columbian is also getting increasingly better on those long balls completing over 74% of his attempts – again best of the groups.

Sanchez best of the lost at Spurs right now

When push comes to shove Davinson Sanchez is not a perfect defender but he is the best of the Tottenham lot. His strengths far outweigh any mistakes he might make and his dynamism athletically gives the team options no one else does. Still only 24-years-old, Sanchez is going to continue to grow and mature as a player and man on and off the pitch.

Like so many other players this season, Sanchez appears to be another situation José Mourinho has handled to perfection. Playing his best football at the most important time of the year, Sanchez seems here to stay.

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