Amidst the latest reports linking Serge Aurier with a potential exit from Tottenham this summer, Jose Mourinho of course will have to consider how to replace the Ivory Coast international.
The right-back has been frustratingly inconsistent for the Lilywhites, able to produce monstrous attacking displays (he has provided eight assists across all competitions this season), and then let also down his teammates with some shocking pieces of rash defending – by October of last year, he had conceded four penalties.
Whilst the summer transfer window will provide Mourinho with the opportunity to potentially replace Aurier in the long-term, he surely has to consider how Spurs can sustain a top-four challenge this season whilst having such an error-prone defender in the starting line-up.
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And that is exactly why Mourinho must make a huge call on Thursday night against Sheffield United, by dropping Aurier, and playing the versatile Moussa Sissoko at right-back.
The Blades have enjoyed an impressive season up till now, finding themselves in tenth in the Premier League table. One of the major hallmarks of their style of play has of course been for their centre-backs to make those overlapping runs like full-backs.
Aurier has never been the most focused of players at Spurs, and it’s shown immensely in his performances for the north Londoners. In the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea earlier this campaign, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville slammed him for his part in Willian’s first goal, saying: “He lacks concentration. He’s turning around looking over his right shoulder, not even watching the play”.
Should Sissoko start ahead of Aurier tonight?
Against Sheffield United, with their three-at-the-back formation and emphasis on playing very wide and getting bodies into the box – they are fourth in the table for crosses into the box – having Aurier in the line-up would be a major liability.
Sissoko on the other hand has been a dependable, and reliable presence for Spurs, whatever position he’s played in. Speaking back in January 2018, Mauricio Pochettino waxed lyrical about the Frenchman, saying: “You have to give the credit to him because he is the only player who gives or provides balance in those transitions – offensive to defensive, defensive to offensive – in the team. There is no other player in the team who can provide that. This is the best quality he provides to the team.”
Playing him at right-back on Thursday evening will give Mourinho less to worry about, and know that Aurier’s tendency to lose his head may not cost his team in a game where they really have to win to close the gap on those teams ahead of them in the table.