The Cartilage Free Captain writer’s room can take a weird turn during periods when Tottenham Hotspur doesn’t play for a while. Faced with the prospects of no Spurs matches for a week, we often end up talking about hypothetical situations and weird matches that we enjoyed watching.
A few days ago, the subject of flex-position players came up. Mauricio Pochettino loves positional flexibility and if you pressed him I don’t think he’d say that players have positions per se but rather skills that emphasize their abilities in certain areas of the pitch. But sometimes circumstances in matches can put players in weird positions on the field, even temporarily.
That got us thinking about a Tottenham Out-Of-Position XI. What kind of team could Spurs put on the pitch if the one rule was they can’t play the position they are most naturally suited for? We decided to figure it out. This article is the result.
A few players didn’t make the cut because it wasn’t obvious where they might play (Hugo Lloris, Serge Aurier, Kyle Walker-Peters), but we made a concerted effort to try and get as many players in the team as possible. There are some players that we feel confident about, and some that are real reaches.
We’d love to hear your ideas as well. Let us know what you think!
Keeper: Harry Kane
The most obvious choice of all obvious choices. When Hugo Lloris conceded a free kick and was sent off during a Europa League match between Spurs and Asteras Tripoli in 2014 and with Spurs already having used all three of their substitutions, there was only one logical person to put on the purple kit and try and save the game. Sure, Harry Kane spilled the shot and conceded the goal, but Spurs were already up 5-0 at that point. Besides, we all thought he had it, and that’s what REALLY counts, right?
Bench: Fernando Llorente. He’s tall.
Center-backs: Ben Davies, Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli
Davies is the most obvious candidate for Spurs’ Out-Of-Position back line, as he played as a left-sided CB for Wales in EURO 2016. He’s also been an emergency CB on a couple of occasions for Spurs. We’ve also seen Victor Wanyama slot deep into the back line from his usual role as a defensive midfielder. It’s not a stretch to put him there. Finally, there’s Dele Alli — I have no evidence whatsoever that he’d be an effective CB, but he’s been excellent at pretty much every other position we’ve seen him at, so why not?
Bench: Eric Dier, Harry Winks. But come on, is this REALLY out of position for Eric? Winksy’s a little small for the role but he’s getting better and might not be a complete disaster defensively.
Wing-backs: Son Heung-Min & Toby Alderweireld
Sonny might be a little out of his depth defensively, but goodness, imagine the overlapping runs on the left flank! And I swear I’ve seen him play at least once as a left back for Spurs, but I can’t remember which match or when. On the other side, Toby Alderweireld has plenty of experience playing at right back for Belgium under Roberto Martinez, which is still bizarre to me. But whatever.
And I see you over there shouting WHERE’S JAN VERTONGHEN, but I’ve got a different position in mind for him. Read on.
Bench: Erik Lamela (LB), Moussa Sissoko (RB). LameLB has got the pace to get forward with the ball on the flanks, and the sharp elbows to make any opposition forwards think twice about running on him. There’s an argument that he might be a better choice to start, but Sonny can, y’know, score goals. As for Sissoko, he’d be great defensively as he has plenty of experience already covering Trippier’s ass this season.
Defensive midfielders: Juan Foyth & Christian Eriksen
Yes, Juan Foyth. He’s good with the ball at his feet. He played as an attacking midfielder as a schoolboy. We’ve been quietly muttering about this for weeks now — he’s a mini-Eric Dier, full of grit, take-ons from deep positions, and barely-suppressed murder. Embrace it, Poch. You know this to be true.
Eriksen’s position is maybe the most tenuous in this entire XI, mostly because we already KNOW he can play as a deep lying playmaker, and is pretty damn good at it. But he’s gotta be in this XI somewhere, and I can’t see him as a striker or defender. The move from #10 to #8 is maybe less dramatic than some of the others, but it’s still not the place where he does his best work.
Bench: Danny Rose. Danny’s first appearance after his long injury was ten minutes as a late-game defensive midfielder in Spurs’ 1-1 Champions League draw against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. That’s good enough for me.
Attacking midfielders: Kieran Trippier, Lucas Moura
One of our biggest beefs with Trips has always been that he’s so good going forward but periodically a catastrophe defensively. So let’s stick him as a wide attacking mid! Go on, Kieran — camp out in the defense’s half. Ping crosses in to your heart’s content. Heck, he can even cut in and see if he can make a little magic happen. Just make sure you let Toby overlap you now and then to keep the defense honest.
I struggled with who to put here, but then I remembered Lucas Moura is basically a support striker now and has been ever since he arrived at Spurs. Ipso facto, playing as a wide midfielder is now him playing out of position. Don’t @ me.
Bench: Davinson Sanchez. Maybe a bit of an odd choice, but I can see Davi succeeding as a deep lying target man who is adept at holding up play and finding teammates with short passes.
Striker: Jan Vertonghen
Jan loves to score goals. I mean, he LOVES scoring goals. He might be the one player aside from Harry Kane who wants to put it in the back of the ol’ onion bag the most, as evident by his periodic mazy runs from the back line. And we all saw that run into the box and his poacher’s finish against Dortmund — those are striker’s instincts. They should be encouraged. #GetJanAGoal
Bench: Vincent Janssen. See it’s funny because he’d be out of position because he doesn’t HAVE a position on this team hashtag-jokes