Last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Leeds United highlighted that Ryan Mason and Tottenham still have plenty to do to fix the defensive issues that have plagued the team all season.
Jose Mourinho, a manager known for forming his most successful sides on solid backlines, really struggled to solve the problem during his 17 months in the job and in the end constantly changed things about looking for his perfect combination.
Spurs’ struggles at the back did play a part in the 58-year-old losing his job three weeks ago and his long-term successor needs to address that area of the pitch upon his arrival in N17.
With both Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez both appearing to be first-choice centre-back at various times throughout the season under Mourinho, summer signing Joe Rodon looked to be the man in possession of the shirt one month ago after starting in the head coach’s final four league games in charge of the team.
Taking his chance with solid displays at the heart of defence and looking like the senior centre-back in the 2-2 draw away at Newcastle United, the Welshman then found himself out of the matchday squad completely for Mason’s first game as interim head coach against Southampton.
Perhaps a shock for many given the performances he put in beforehand, Mason quite clearly had one eye on the upcoming Carabao Cup final with Rodon ineligible for the showpiece finale after playing for Swansea City in the first round of the competition back in September.
However, since that slender 1-0 defeat against Man City at Wembley, Rodon has yet to take his place back in the squad for Tottenham’s Premier League games against Sheffield United and Leeds.
At Elland Road last Saturday the team really were given a torrid time at the back with Marcelo Bielsa’s side looking to attack at every opportunity, with Dier calling it “controlled chaos” as he reflected on the 3-1 defeat.
Stating at the start of the month that there has been an “unfair narrative” painted when it comes to his defensive mistakes over the course of the campaign, the England international’s performance in West Yorkshire was a major talking point amongst Spurs fans for his role in Leeds’ first two goals of the afternoon.
Allowing Jack Harrison’s wicked cross from the left to run right across the six-yard box rather than looking to clear it away from danger, Dier was punished for his error as Stuart Dallas fired high into the roof of the net after Hugo Lloris had to stop Sergio Reguilon from diverting the ball into his own net.
Just prior to half-time the ex-Sporting CP man then allowed Patrick Bamford to peel off him way too easily as he tapped home for a simple finish from Ezgjan Alioski’s cross.
Excellent two weeks earlier in the Carabao Cup final against Man City as he produced a number of sublime blocks and tackles, it was a day to forget for the 27-year-old and it may see Mason have a defensive reshuffle ahead of Sunday’s game against Wolves.
Asked by football.london after the defeat at Elland Road if he was upset at the manner of the goals his team conceded, Mason said: “Listen we don’t like conceding goals. I can’t really remember to be perfectly honest what in the moments leading up to the goals, the build-up, the final action.
“I remember the third but we were chasing the game and we were open so there was so much space, but I’ll have to watch the first two back to give an honest opinion on that.”
Mason now must decide if he keeps faith with Dier alongside Alderweireld on Sunday against Wolves or he changes things up slightly in his quest to get Tottenham back on track with a win.
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Sanchez may be the player in line to come in from the off at the weekend due to his place on the bench in recent weeks but Rodon should also be considered for a starting spot going on his previous performances for Tottenham.
At a time in the season when the team are looking to clinch a Europa League place for 2021/22 with the top four out of their grasp, Spurs can also start planning for next campaign by giving those who could be big players for the club going forward a chance.
Amid doubts over whether Dier and Sanchez will still be at the club next season with a defensive change needed, as well as the fact that Alderweireld is now 32 and not a player for the long-term future, Rodon and Japhet Tanganga are the two who could be in Tottenham’s backline for years to come.
It is now down to Mason to decide on whether or not the Wales international returns for the first time since the draw at Everton last month or he opts for one of Dier or Sanchez to partner Alderweireld at the back.
It’s a big call and all eyes will be on the Tottenham teamsheet come just gone 1pm on Sunday afternoon.