With Cristian Romero coming off injured for Argentina on Tuesday, it creates an opportunity for someone to step up in the Tottenham Hotspur defence.
Based on his first two matches in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, Antonio Conte clearly had Cristian Romero as part of his defensive plans. However, after Romero was substituted with a thigh injury in Argentina’s draw with Brazil, it looks like Conte will have to turn to alternatives on the right side of his back three.
Conte and Tottenham will be ready
One thing we know for certain despite the loss of Romero for at least the short term is that Conte and Tottenham will be ready. This is not so much because of Spurs’ depth in the back, which is strong, nor Conte’s coaching, which is equally good. Rather, Romero missing some time was always going to be part of the plan after the Argentine received a red card in the last Europa Conference League match.
Missing Romero for any time in the Premier League was certainly never part of the plan but you can bet that with that last week to train with the players at Tottenham Way, Conte had a plan to cover for Romero.
With Romero essentially out for at least the next two matches on Sunday and then again on Thursday, this is a real opportunity for one or more players to stake claim to some real playing time and a future in Conte’s Tottenham defence.
It is not good to lose anyone from the starting XI, however Spurs roster is much more equipped to handle a loss in the defence than it is to say, Harry Kane, who has no clear-cut backup. Fortunately for Tottenham, there are three clear options for Conte to choose from as he looks to solidify the structure of the team starting in the back on defence.
The most likely option is probably Davinson Sanchez, who was Conte’s choice to re-build his back three after Romero received his walking papers against Vitesse. Sanchez is more accustomed to playing as one of two in a center-half pairing as opposed to being more in space on the right.
Sanchez is extremely athletic and has a nice long ball if given time. That last part could be the challenge for the Colombian, as he is not always confident and assured on the ball, which is necessary for a Conte defence. Leeds is a team that is going to look to apply high pressure and Sanchez’s ability to handle that pressure on the ball and avoid losing possession is going to say a lot about the kind of future Davinson has at N17 under Conte.
Joe Rodon has not gotten a ton of minutes since coming to Tottenham Hotspur at the end of last year’s ‘summer transfer window. However, Rodon has gotten consistent minutes for Wales in a back three during their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Rodon played all 180 minutes over the two matches of this last break, however, none of the 180 minutes were on the right. Rodon played centrally and on the left across the two matches. While not being accustomed to playing on the right, like Sanchez, Rodon possesses all the ability as a defender but it remains to be seen if he has the on-the-ball skills needed in the team. Now maybe his chance to show it.
Many fans’ top choice for the slot is Japhet Tanganga. An academy product Tanganga had an electric start to the season playing in a traditional fullback role. However, a red card and then circumstances moved Tanganga around on defence. By the time Japhet was really available at right-back again, Emerson Royal had taken the spot.
Tangnaga is a shade smaller than Rodon and Sanchez but he is the most assured of the three on the ball. Developed most of his young career as a center-half, in theory, all of the training and opportunities to date have developed Japhet for this moment. Of course, Conte may see Tanganga as a wing-back behind Royal and may not even really be in the conversation but the 22-year-old certainly is in the picture from a fan’s perspective.
Regardless of who Conte chooses on Sunday and on Thursday, it is certainly an opportunity to show one’s worth as part of Tottenham’s future, we can only hope the player or players take the chance.