It’s safe to say that for some of Spurs’ younger players, the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino at White Hart Lane has been a useful one. Harry Kane’s grabbed the headlines with his goals, Ryan Mason is (somehow) a Premier League midfielder, and Danny Rose (while a bit older than the rest) is finally beginning to repay some of the faith handed to him over the past few years with some strong performances in the left back slot.
Before Pochettino’s reign began in earnest, Rose only really had a screamer against rivals Arsenal and an average loan spell at Sunderland to show for a seven year Spurs career, since his switch from Leeds back in 2007 at the age of 17. Now, after about two-thirds of a reasonably strong season, Pochettino has declared Danny Rose the Premier League’s best English left back. Just how realistic is that assertion?
First, let’s look at the season Danny Rose is having. He’s been first choice at left back throughout most of Spurs’ campaign so far, featuring 22 times in the league, and not really showing himself up as a poor quality full back, either. There have certainly been times when his defending has been questionable – for example against Arsenal in a derby which Spurs eventually won – but poor defending has been endemic to Spurs’ season, and is probably more a result of the team play as a whole rather than one full back undermining the entire defence consistently. However, Rose seems more comfortable going forwards rather than going backwards; not a problem in defensively sound teams, but perhaps of concern to both Spurs and England fans should he make the cut for any future Three Lions squads. Rose has four assists, creates quite a lot of chances for Spurs from a wide position, and looks to take on his man often – usually succeeding – but is weak in the air and isn’t as effective a tackler as many modern full backs are.
All in all, Danny Rose has proven himself as a useful Premier League defender this season – it’s hard to argue anything other than that – but England’s best? Even though Ashley Cole, probably still the best English left back presently, is unavailable for England and playing in Serie A, the English national team and the Premier League isn’t suffering a dearth of quality left-sided full backs. If Danny Rose did eventually opt to represent Jamaica instead of his native country, it probably wouldn’t be much of a loss to Roy Hodgson or the England faithful – at least, only to the England fans who didn’t weep after Jlloyd Samuel chose to represent Trinidad and Tobago.
But who are the other options for Hodgson? Surely, Rose can only be judged against his peers?
Luke Shaw had an incredible season with Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino last year, going from young talent to England international under the Argentine manager’s guidance. This, in itself, makes it slightly odd that Pochettino would dismiss one of the players whose careers he’s shaped the most thus far in favour of Danny Rose, but the fact is that Shaw is yet to settle at Old Trafford, and so in spite of his obvious talent, and the fact that very few people doubt that, at some point in the near future, Shaw will take up the mantle as England’s first choice in the position, he’s not had the most impressive season.
Much of this has to be attributed to Louis van Gaal, or at the very least Manchester United themselves. It seems that Louis van Gaal doesn’t rate Shaw particularly highly, at times in the season opting to play Ashley Young as a left wing back instead; Shaw himself has only played thirteen times in the league this season. Despite the prevailing narrative that he’s been a flop so far, in his time on the pitch Luke Shaw’s probably been no worse than any other Manchester United player – despite his relative inexperience and age – and he’s certainly improved somewhat as a defender this season; most of the criticism aimed at him last season coming from a defensive perspective. Luke Shaw should probably remain in the England squad regardless of club form however, because it is only a matter of time before (not a matter of whether) Shaw will begin to emerge as an automatic starter for both club and country.
Shaw’s replacement at Southampton is probably the English left back having the most impressive season in the Premier League, having gone from a poor loan spell with Aston Villa last year to several brilliant showings for the South Coast club. Teammate Nathaniel Clyne made the step-up from the Saints to the England first team back in the Autumn, and while Bertrand has been involved in the set-up before (against Italy and Ukraine back in 2012, and in the youth teams too), he’d never had the exposure to top level club football until this season, where he’s made himself a starter under Ronald Koeman.
Bertrand is a year older than Rose but is equally a much more mature player, too, making him the perfect solution for Hodgson for now, should Hodgson be looking for one; Southampton’s excellent defence is a case in point (especially if England use both Bertrand and Clyne in tandem with each other), while Bertrand’s good contributions to Southampton’s play going forward this season have grabbed him a couple of goals and assists.
Like Southampton, West Ham have impressed unexpectedly for stretches of this season, having added a 25-year old English left back to their team in the summer. A tenuous link, yes, but Aaron Cresswell, like Ryan Bertrand, has had his breakout season this year, and is currently attracting interest from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City.
A year ago, the former Ipswich and Tranmere man had never even played in the Premier League, however, and so it remains to be seen how consistently Cresswell can play on the top level. He is perhaps an interesting option, but given that he’s yet to complete a full season of Premier League football, he perhaps needs to impress over a slightly longer stretch of time. Nonetheless, with a goal and a good presence going forwards, providing excellent foil for the likes of Stewart Downing, Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho, Cresswell is probably as good an option for England as Danny Rose in the short term; and, given that Hodgson hasn’t been shy of giving the Premier League’s form players a run-out for their country since taking over back in 2012, it’s not altogether impossible that Cresswell could get the chance to stake a claim for the shirt in the near future.
Having been in the set-up for nearly five years – often picked for the squad, impressing for his club, but never quite usurping Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines – it might seem that Gibbs has been dealt a somewhat harsh hand. He’s shown he’s a very good Premier League quality defender over a sustained period of time, having been probably one of the best defensive full backs in the league over the past few years, but his lack of attacking flair has perhaps given him a perception problem to many fans.
It must be admitted that Gibbs hasn’t played as much as many of his counterparts this season, making only nineteen league appearances for Arsenal, but with a strong work ethic and an improving presence going forward, Gibbs hasn’t exactly let himself down this season either. He probably deserves one of the slots in the squad, and maybe a chance at establishing himself as a starter before Euro 2016; but, given the current depth of talent in the position, it’s not exactly clear that this will happen.
Leighton Baines has been very consistent for Everton over the past few years, and has been a strong presence for the Merseyside club in spite of a difficult season thus far, with two goals and a further eight assists helping ease the creative burden for the attacking players.
However, Everton have been awful defensively all year, and Baines himself is aging; having turned 30 in December, Baines will be past his peak by the time of Euro 2016 and shouldn’t be anywhere near the picture for 2018, and so isn’t a long term choice. His selection only makes logical choice if he is the best left back of the current crop, and Roy Hodgson has, throughout qualification for Euro 2016, seemed to believe that he is; however, against better sides – the likes of which England will have to play – Baines seems to quite often get found out. This was obvious against Italy and Uruguay in last year’s World Cup and won’t have changed after two years of aging legs in France next year, but for the time being, Baines seems to be the most obvious choice to start for England, if only because of his relative experience.
Is Rose an international quality left back? That’s questionable. We’ve never seen him play for England, so until then it will always be unclear, but if what Pochettino is saying is true, and Rose is truly considering representing Jamaica, it will hardly be a big blow to Roy Hodgson and his team. Ryan Bertrand and Kieran Gibbs are probably better intermediate options in the position until Luke Shaw full emerges as the international quality left back which he is expected to become. In that sense, Rose has a choice; wait to see if he can prove himself as worthy for an England call-up over a longer period of time, or represent Jamaica instead. He’s certainly not ready for England duty right now.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Sessegnon or Bale? Past or future? Spurs must make right move this summer
Amadou Haidara released by Leeds United, bringing an end to bizarre transfer chapter
Jack Wilshere’s Everton arrival would surely spell the end for Morgan Schneiderlin?
Matthew Pennington’s future looks away from Everton after loan woes
Tottenham Hotspur3 weeks ago
Tottenham Hotspur must push Toby Alderweireld toward Barcelona
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Jurgen Klopp’s brave January decision is playing off thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Brentford4 weeks ago
Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford
Liverpool4 weeks ago
Mohamed Salah: Is Liverpool’s Egyptian star the best player in the world right now?
English Premier League3 weeks ago
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp
Chelsea4 days ago
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold finds himself at the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s plans
Arsenal4 weeks ago
Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: Three talking points from Wembley