Could a new arrival reinvigorate the full-back’s Tottenham Hotspur career, or might it signal the end?
2019-20 was a testing campaign for Tottenham Hotspur, as they struggled in the aftermath of their Champions League final defeat, parted ways with Mauricio Pochettino, appointed the apparently ill-fitting Jose Mourinho, and laboured with a series of major injuries.
They ended the season strongly following lockdown, but questions still remain about the identity of the team under Mourinho, although there’s no doubt that there’s quality across the park.
Will Serge Aurier, regularly criticised during his time in the capital, have a part to play in Mourinho’s Spurs, or will the arrival of Matt Doherty ultimately spell the end?
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The story of last season
Following Kieran Trippier’s exit to Atletico Madrid, Aurier spent the entirety of the campaign as Spurs’ first-choice right-back.
He ended the season with 33 league outings—25 more than the season before—and registered five assists.
The full-back scored in the 3-2 home defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers in March, and won over many admirers for a strong display in the North London derby triumph against Arsenal in the immediate aftermath of his brother’s murder.
Despite the plaudits for the attacking threat he offered going forward, his powerful running and ability to beat a man, his rash decision-making, concentration and positional naivety continue to undermined his contribution to the Lilywhites.
Any transfer rumours?
The departure of Kyle Walker-Peters on a permanent deal to Southampton and the arrival of Doherty from Wolves means it’s one right-back out and one right-back in for the Londoners.
Considering Spurs must compete in the gruelling Europa League, there should be ample opportunity for Aurier to play despite the Irishman’s arrival, although AC Milan have been heavily linked with a move for the West African.
They aren’t enamoured by his reported £23 million asking price, although ex-Spurs goalkeeper has encouraged the club to cash in on the full-back.
Bayer Leverkusen have also been mooted as potential suitors.
One hope for 2020-21
That the arrival of a positional rival and the ongoing tutelage of Mourinho help Aurier finally iron out his weaknesses, that he can couple his offensive qualities with a greater defensive awareness and maintain his spot as the club’s first-choice on the right.
Wishful thinking, perhaps, and a crucial role as the club’s full-back of choice in a successful Europa League campaign, while Doherty holds down the spot in the Prem, might be more realistic.
One big fear for 2020-21
A season on the sidelines.
There’s only so long that Mourinho’s patience in Aurier’s defensive failings can last; if there are any more high-profile errors or the kinds of controversies that marred his time at Paris Saint-Germain, then the Ivorian may find himself ostracised in North London a la Danny Rose.
In Eric Dier, Japhet Tanganga and Juan Foyth, Mourinho has other players who could play back-up to Doherty on the right, so Aurier is most definitely expendable.
Goal’s prediction for the season to come
He may yet leave the club, but it’s appearing increasingly likely that Aurier will remain at Spurs…for now at least.
Mourinho has clarified that he sees his two leading right-backs as options within a squad system, and while Doherty may be favoured in the Prem, Aurier should get ample playing time on other fronts.
“When we bought Matt it was not to sell Serge,” Mourinho told journalists. “When we got Matt it was to strengthen the squad and to have more options, and not to be in a very difficult situation like last season where Serge was playing all the time.
“The market is open and the players have the right to express themselves and to try to be happy,” he added, “and if one day Serge comes to us and a situation that he would prefer I think we would speak with him.
“Mr Levy would speak with him,” Mourinho concluded, “but the reason why we got Doherty was to improve the squad and not to sell Serge.
“If you ask me directly do you want to sell? No I don’t.”