With Kieran Trippier featuring against Swansea City and Barnsley in the space of a few days, Saturday’s derby clash with West Ham presented a first Premier League start for Serge Aurier.
The £23 million summer signing from Paris Saint-Germain had already impressed during the Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund ten days ago and, after featuring from the bench during the stalemate with the Swans, Mauricio Pochettino turned to him on Saturday lunchtime.
Aurier arrived in the Premier League with a reputation for being a character, with an unnerving erratic nature, and he certainly lived up to that at the London Stadium in a mixed bag of a display.
There were times early on where he left Toby Alderweireld worryingly exposed due to his desire to push further up the pitch and Marko Arnautovic quickly sensed that he could get results on the left.
He nearly did too, with Aurier’s initial mistake allowing the West Ham winger with a clear path towards goal with the scores still locked at 0-0, but to his credit the Ivorian recovered superbly to steal the ball away from him with a last-ditch sliding challenge when Arnautovic seemed set to score.
It was an outstanding piece of recovery play, more than atoning for his initial error, and this play seemed to give him a sense of confidence that settled him down and eradicated any early nerves.
Yet – such is Aurier’s nature – controversy was never too far away, and the Tottenham defender was fortunate to get away with a penalty shout when the ball seemed to fall down his arm in the area.
On this occasion it wasn’t given, much to Tottenham’s relief, and he seemed to use this life-line to spark his performance into life by providing a big burst of energy patrolling the right side of the field.
It was his thundering ball across the face of goal at the end of a driving run that nearly gave the visitors the lead, with an offside Harry Kane missing a gaping goal, and this woke Spurs up after a slow start.
What followed was a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ passage of play from Pochettino’s men, with the impregnable Kane finding the net twice in 221 seconds to put the game beyond their London rivals.
This blitz certainly eased the pressure on Aurier’s defensive duties and it showed, with the former PSG man starting to revel in the physical battle with Arnautovic and putting in strong tackles at will.
However, it wasn’t long before his maverick style of play reared its ugly head once again and, after being shown a long over-due booking early in the second-half, a moment of madness proved his downfall.
His decision-making had been questionable at best all afternoon and he attempted one tackle too many under the nose of referee Michael Oliver when he lunged in on Andy Carroll from behind, and there was little option but for the man in the middle to award a second card and a debut dismissal.
Whilst there’s no doubt that Aurier is excellent entertainment value for the neutral, Tottenham boss Pochettino has a lot of rough edges to iron out before he becomes the whole package in the top-flight.
Despite the fact that the Ivorian’s athleticism, energy and all-round excitable nature makes him such an intriguing footballer, Trippier is the much more stable and dependable option as a right-wing back and, for the foreseeable future, Aurier will play second-fiddle to him whilst he continues learning in England.