Cartilage Free Captain is again reviewing and ranking the top 15 youth prospects at Tottenham Hotspur to see which players have the best potential to follow players like Harry Kane, Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, and Nabil Bentaleb into the Tottenham first team. The rules for inclusion are as follows:
- The player had to be 21 or under on January 1, 2015
- The player cannot have seen significant match time with Tottenham's first team
Next on our list is
21 22 year old right back DeAndre Yedlin.
Who is he?
Do you read this site regularly? OK, how about semi-regularly? Then you already know about DeAndre Yedlin. The young American right back blazed into our collective consciousness during last summer's World Cup in Brazil. He was electric in that tournament, setting up Clint Dempsey for the goal that put USA ahead over Portugal, and keeping Eden Hazard in his pocket for large portions of the loss against Belgium.
But it's not like he sprung fully-formed from the skull of Jurgen Klinsmann. He was a product of Seattle Sounders' youth academy, was a collegiate star at Akron, and was Sounders' first home-grown player. He played 56 matches for Seattle and went on to become an MLS All-Star before capitalizing on his international and club experience. Tottenham purchased him last summer and loaned him back to Seattle until the end of the MLS season. He joined Spurs in London in January of 2015.
Where he sat. And sat. And sat some more.
Tottenham made statements indicating that they were taking the long road with Yedlin and that he was given the extra months to acclimate to life in a new country and a new league. By all extents he needed it too – despite getting along swimmingly with his teammates and making the bench a few times in the wake of Spurs' injury crisis at right back, he only played ten minutes for Spurs last season, as a late substitute in Tottenham's loss to Tim Sherwood and Aston Villa. Despite being an actual right back, Mauricio Pochettino would go with Vlad Chiriches and Eric Dier out of position ahead of Yedlin, decisions that gave the vast majority of American Spurs fans the vapors.
What can he do?
DeAndre Yedlin is fast. Super fast. Like seriously, bro, he's legit quick. He's used that blazing speed to his advantage as an attacking fullback that can get past opposition defenders. He's also a capable crosser of the ball and is able to pass balls into dangerous areas from wide positions, which makes him quite useful when you have a true target striker lurking in the box or are on the break and trying to catch defenders unawares.
The knock on Yedlin is, frankly, he's not a very good defender. He's certainly better now than he was when he was at Seattle, he's improving by leaps and bounds by all indications, and he's young and raw enough that he can be taught the finer points of positioning, but some of his defense and decision making during his tenure at Seattle and earlier stints with the USA national team was... yeeesh.
We've all seen this graphic of him in Seattle. That green blur in the center of the pitch is Yedlin who sprints back to make a truly impressive defensive recovery to save a goal. Yedlin proponents, of which I am one, will readily point to this as evidence of just how fast he really is. But what has always bugged me about this .gif is Yedlin's terrible giveaway in midfield that necessitated him kicking in the afterburners in the first place. This .gif aptly summarizes all of Yedlin's good and bad points in a simple, repeating image.
But honestly, Yedlin's not really that much more of a defensive liability than Kyle Walker was when he first broke into Spurs' first team. In fact, Walker is a pretty good analogue to Yedlin: both are (were?) blazing fast players with defensive deficiencies that will bite you in the ass at times, but blessed with enormous upsides.
There's no question that he's a monster young talent. Yedlin's speed and crossing have been enough that lately USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann has been playing him as a right sided midfielder where he can still terrorize opposition left backs but doesn't have as heavy a millstone of defensive responsibility that he'd have at right back.
Where can he go?
At some point in his tenure in London, we assume, Yedlin got a lower back tattoo that reads "CARPE DIEM." And s***ty, overused platitudes aside, that's exactly what he needs to do to make it as an EPL player. He's had enough time to acclimate to England. What he needs now is games.
Unfortunately, with Tottenham Hotspur taking out a Kyle Walker insurance policy by way of signing Kieran Trippier this summer, those opportunities for matches may not come readily this season at Tottenham, which is why Yedlin has been tipped for a season-long loan. And honestly, this wouldn't be that bad of a move for him. If Yedlin is loaned out to a team like Norwich or Aston Villa (O HAI Alan Hutton) that need a dose of speed and are willing to take a moderate chance on a bolt of lightning like Yedlin, then he could find himself getting quality minutes and experience that will translate well to his future Tottenham opportunities.
As to the right back versus right midfielder debate? Let's get him some first team minutes somewhere first. Jan Vertonghen plays left back for Belgium. Toby Alderweireld will play on the right as often as he'll plays in the center. National team coaches often put players in different positions than their club team. Yedlin's doing well as a right winger right now for USA, but realistically there's no way he starts in front of Erik Lamela for Tottenham any time soon. His future at Spurs is probably as an attacking right back, and that's okay.
Yedlin's got the tools in the toolbox to make it as an EPL player. At only 22, he's got his MLS and USA foundation that he can build upon, and it's enough that he could be a more than simply cromulent player. But he needs to grab on to his chance and make the most of it.
And we only ranked him #6 in our rankings. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.