How does big Ange fix this leaky tottenham defence?

Establishing strong foundations is a prerequisite for constructing a mansion. If you don’t, there’s a chance that your lovely home may eventually sink into the ground, sending a cascade of problems crashing through your home until everything that makes it happy breaks. If your 90″ TV is set up on a wall that is broken, what good is it? A worn-out shag rug dotted with mold on a shifting floor?

Following yet another Brighton goal on Thursday,  shot a wry look down the lens of Amazon’s camera. It said it all with a fourth-wall-breaking look that Jim Halpert from The Office would have been proud of: The floor is sinking, the walls are crumbling, and he, along with a great number of the supporters,

Just a few months later, and the tale is completely different: A standout defensive line in the league was built by Pedro Porro, Cristian Romero, Micky van de Ven, and Destiny Udogie. Yves Bissouma was radiant in front of them, and Guglielmo Vicario was a star behind them. They were excellent as a team, laying the groundwork for Spurs’ exciting performance.

Suspensions and injuries have completely destroyed that unit since then. Due to cards, Bissouma and Romero have missed significant portions of games, and Van van Ven has been sidelined for nearly two months and counting because of a terrifying hamstring injury. When you combine James Maddison, Pape Matar Sarr, Richarlison, and other conditions, and it’s been tough for Postecoglu to deliver anything close to a consistent team since the start of the November.

These absences have utterly derailed Tottenham’s season. Before that fateful 4-1 loss to Chelsea, where everything went wrong, Spurs’ WhoScored average team rating was 6.89, second-best in the Premier League; in the games since, it’s dropped to 6.70, good for only eighth-best.

Perhaps they could have coped better if the injuries had been concentrated on the forward line. After all, this team is full of goalscoring potential, back to front and in depth. But in defence it is skin-deep, a fact laid brutally bare in the absence of both Romero and Van de Ven.

Postecoglu has opted to play full-back Emerson Royal alongside Ben Davies in central defence in their absence, leaving natural centre-back Eric Dier on the bench in the process. That’s a stylistic choice, based largely on ball-playing ability, as the coach prioritises clean buildup from the back over traditional defensive grit.

It has somewhat succeeded, but even in the team’s most recent victories over Everton and Nottingham Forest, you could occasionally sense the defense was barely holding on. Then there is the Brighton fiasco, specifically the opening goal, in which Emerson simply appears to forget that he is a center-back. Instead, he pursues Joao Pedro into the corner and allows himself to be pulled across the edge of the box in the process, which leads to a series of positional errors and free passes to Jack Hinshelwood at the back post.

It wasn’t the first time Emerson would disappear from the game; at times, it seemed like Ben Davies was defending the pitch’s center by himself and that Bissouma wasn’t there to help control the space. His goal at the end was just reward for his own heroic, yet also flawed, individual efforts.

With these issues plaguing the spine of your team, it’s hard to construct anything that’s sustainably good. After all, you can’t hang a 90” flatscreen on a cracked wall. Romero’s out for another month; Van de Ven’s pending return must be treated with caution; Emerson obviously isn’t the answer; and if Dier’s deemed not fit for purpose, well… there’s simply no other solution than to turn to the market.

The players on the shortlist that Spurs have already been linked to are Radu Dragusin (Genoa), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Tosin Adarabioyo (Fulham), Ben Godfrey and Jarrad Branthwaite (both Everton), Jean-Clair Todibo (Nice), and Joe Gomez (Liverpool).

Making decisions for the Spurs is a difficult task. They should be happy that Romero and Van de Ven are unquestionably the first-choice duo when healthy, but they also need to find and buy a player or two who can jump into the core of Spurs’ top-four pursuit squad and calm the ship. It’s similar to the Harry Kane backup dilemma reappearing, only this time it’s in a different position and far too soon.

Spurs’ season-long goals will be dashed if the current trajectory persists, so in the end, they might have to make certain commitments they just can’t keep. Since the beginning of November, no team has given up more goals than Tottenham (19), an awful and devastating statistic that emphasizes how critical the situation is.


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