Glenn Hoddle believes Matt Doherty’s struggles for Tottenham Hotspur are a result of him being moved out of his favoured wing-back position and into a more orthodox right-back role.
Doherty struggled throughout the north London derby on Sunday, with the pace and penetration of Arsenal left-back Kieran Tierney a constant issue, and Gareth Bale’s lack of defensive cover often left him exposed in 2v1 situations on that side of the field.
It was an area Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta clearly looked to exploit with Tierney working in tandem with Emile Smith Rowe and Doherty’s performance has come in for considerable criticism.
The Republic of Ireland international has divided opinion all season, having arrived in the summer from Wolves, with each positive display then ruined by an uncertain one and the feeling that he’s yet to properly settle in Jose Mourinho’s set-up.
At Wolves he established himself as one of the best attacking full-backs in the Premier League with eight goals but Mourinho hasn’t used him exclusively as a wing-back – as evidence at Emirates Stadium on Sunday when he played in a flat-back four.
Mourinho appears to have settled on a 4-2-3-1, to enable Bale, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane to play together, but that doesn’t seem to be playing to Doherty’s strengths as he’s deployed in a traditional defensive role.
That means when he’s wants to attack the opposition he’s starting from a much deeper position and, in a defensive sense, doesn’t have the same cover as he would in a 3-5-2.
“Well, we saw him play extremely well for Wolves, but when he first went to Tottenham I thought ‘well, they must be playing a back three.’
“I think Matt Doherty in a wing-back position, that’s his position. I think he finds it hard in a back four, and I really do feel that that is the problem,” Spurs legend Hoddle said on his own podcast, the Glenn Hoddle Footy Show.
“It’s a slight adjustment from a wing-back to a full-back, you have to be on the cover a bit more and you have to defend a bit deeper, and he’s not as advanced as he would have been when he played for Wolves.”
It’s unlikely that Mourinho will revert to a three-man defence given his lack of resources at centre-back meaning that Doherty is simply going to have to adapt to playing in a back-four.
The 29-year-old has been in a jobshare over the position with Serge Aurier and given Doherty’s performance on Sunday it will be intriguing as to who Mourinho selects for Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Dinamo Zagreb and then the Premier League encounter on Sunday against Aston Villa.