Since the rumors about Kieran Trippier’s departure first started emerging this summer, Tottenham Hotspur fans have been openly wondering about who will replace him at right back in Spurs’ lineup. It turns out — possibly nobody!
According to Dan Kilpatrick in the Evening Standard, unless something changes before the end of the window, Spurs will not target a right back to replace Trippier, with Serge Aurier, Kyle Walker-Peters, and Juan Foyth battling for minutes on the right side of the defense. That could change — Kilpatrick says that the club are open to offers for Aurier in the transfer window — but Spurs have also rejected approaches from Crystal Palace and RB Leipzig for Walker-Peters, suggesting that Mauricio Pochettino thinks he could still play a major role for the club going forward.
So, this is weird and at some level extremely suboptimal. Trippier, despite being a hugely flawed player in several ways, was still clearly Spurs’ best option at right back last season. Not directly replacing him, plus the possible departure of Danny Rose, means that Spurs could go into next season with some massive questions at both fullback positions. Considering the importance of fullback play to Mauricio Pochettino’s tactics in recent seasons, that’s more than a bit worrying. But on the other hand, Pochettino might think that fixing the midfield, clearly Spurs’ primary aim this summer, will help mitigate the importance of the fullbacks in his tactics, and that he can kick this particular can down the road a bit so long as Spurs don’t have to rely on the fullbacks to generate offense as much.
There’s also the possibility that Poch really, really thinks Juan Foyth could be an excellent right back and plans to do some substantial “fullback whispering” to get him there. Poch certainly has a track record of whispering fullbacks to their full potential (Trippier and Rose the prime examples here).
I’m not wild about this plan and think there are potentially huge risks involved, but I also think after taking Spurs as far as he has, Pochettino deserves the benefit of the doubt. And there’s still time for things to change and Tottenham to bring in another player if they think it’s warranted.