Late in Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 win at Leicester City on Saturday, Serge Aurier was subbed off with what looked like a knock, raising the specter that Spurs might be without their first two right backs due to injury. Kieran Trippier is also nursing a recurrent groin injury and was subbed off in the second half of the midweek win over Southampton, before being left out of the side entirely vs. Leicester.
Thankfully, Spurs have a third right back on the roster — academy graduate Kyle Walker-Peters, who came on for Serge for the final few minutes at the King Power Stadium. KWP is seemingly ready and waiting for his chance, but hasn’t seen many minutes this season. When asked, however, Mauricio Pochettino said he’d have no hesitation to chuck KWP into the Champions League starting lineup against Barcelona on Tuesday.
“I think [KWP] is ready to play. All the players that we have in the squad, the younger ones like Oliver Skipp or Troy Parrott, who was involved today for the first time, it’s because they’re involved in the first team during days, during weeks, during months, and it’s only to give the possibility to play. I don’t doubt and I am not worried about players who are injured or don’t perform in their best, because we have another who can replace them. I promise we are going to win or lose with one or another.”
Poch has been talking a lot about Tottenham utilizing its full roster a lot this season, even going so far as to chide reporters who ask about his personnel decisions after matches. So in that sense, it’s not at all a surprise for Poch to publicly back Walker-Peters against Barcelona. You’d expect him to — according to Poch if you’re in the squad and making benches it means you’re ready to be a contributor. It’s also part of the mindset that Poch instills in his squad — if you don’t perform well in training, there’s someone waiting in the wings to replace you.
But KWP has been used much even when he could’ve been. Saturday was his first league appearance all season and he only has 102 first team minutes in all competitions, and 90 of those minutes were in the EFL Cup win over West Ham. It had reached the point where a number of us were wondering a) why he hadn’t been loaned out this year and b) whether he might be sold in January or this summer.
I’m not convinced that we’ll actually see KWP at the Nou Camp this Tuesday — it’s possible that Trippier will be ready for significant minutes, if not the full 90 — but if he does start it will be at least as much out of necessity as it is because Pochettino thinks he’s ready. We know he’s a decent player, thanks to his Man of the Match performance against Newcastle last season, but even a rotated Barcelona is a different beast than 2017-18 Toon. Hopefully he’s up for the challenge.