Can Ben Davies become Tottenham's first-choice left-back?
Ben Davies has had a great start to the season and is laying a marker down before the return of Danny Rose. In previous seasons, the Welshman has been seen as the back-up left-back and he had only featured sporadically in the first-team. However, the injury to Rose led to an opportunity and he has taken full advantage of it. His growth over that period has been impressive and his recent performances suggest that he could retain his place even after the return of the man that many believe to be ahead of him in the pecking order.
It was his defensive quality that was most prominent after he signed from Swansea City and that remains impressive, but it is his influence on the ball that has improved most. The full-backs are crucial to the way that Mauricio Pochettino’s teams play football and Davies has quickly adapted to that. He is currently averaging 3.09 chances created per ninety minutes and has a pass completion of 85%. The Welsh international is comfortable on the ball and that has been a result of learning from the Tottenham manager.
The 24-year-old has managed to get a goal and an assist already this season, which shows that he can make impactful contributions in attack. Although he lacks the pace and dynamism that Rose possesses, he is effective at what he does and knows his own limitations as a player. He regularly takes up the right positions and is rarely caught up the pitch. Pochettino has given him a good tactical reading of the game and the recent experience as first-choice has helped him build on that.
Defensively, Davies is a consistent performer and rarely makes errors that cost his team. This season, he has averaged 1.55 tackles per ninety minutes and has an aerial duels success rate of 42.86%. The Welshman can dig in and has added an aggressiveness to his game that helps him regain possession. His rise started at international level and he is now proving himself at a top-six club.
The problem that will be presented to Pochettino soon is whether Davies has done enough to keep his place in the first-team. Danny Rose is making good progress with his recovery and will be back involved with the squad soon. The Tottenham manager has shown himself to be stubborn and doesn’t like it when players make a stand against him. Rose gave a controversial interview over the summer and there could be consequences for that when he returns.
Davies has certainly done enough to earn more matches as first choice left-back, even after the return of Rose. The England international has had a long time out and will need to slowly build up his fitness. Once he is fit and firing, it will be a difficult decision for Pochettino. The Argentine will rotate frequently as he balances multiple competitions, but Davies will now offer real competition to start in the biggest matches.