When you think about new signings on this Tottenham Hotspur team who are struggling to make an impact, who’s the first person you think of? Okay, it’s Gareth Bale. But the SECOND person you’ll think of is probably Matt Doherty. The Irish right back, brought in from Wolves this summer to push Serge Aurier and challenge for a starting position, has not exactly set the world on fire with his performances thus far this season..
To be sure, he’s not been playing well even when he does get in the side, and Serge Aurier has pretty much locked down the starting right back position for now. Spurs fans have started to question whether the amount paid for him — £15m according to reports — was worth the outlay, especially as the player the sold to finance his move, Kyle Walker-Peters, has been playing well at Southampton.
But Serge Aurier can’t play every minute this season, and indeed is questionable for today’s FA Cup match at Everton after leaving the West Brom match with an injured calf. With Doherty likely to start today at Goodison Park, Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho was asked about Doherty’s struggles, and the boss preached patience.
“I was with SpursTV before I joined you and speaking about Pierre [Hojbjerg]. He is an example of a guy who arrived and immediately looks like a guy who was here his whole life and immediately making an impact.
“Not every player does that. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult. But we believe in [Matt], he believes in us, and we spoke about that a few days ago.
“He feels it was a great decision to move, he’s very happy to be here and admits he’s much better than what he’s showing. Again, confidence is very important and I believe that he’ll only improve. He’s a player that we trust.”
Doherty has never been an especially great progresser with the ball, something Aurier is pretty great at, and at Wolves he thrived as a wingback playing in front of a back three, and not as a fullback with more defensive duties. Part of his struggles could be related to adapting his game to a new team and a new system.
There’s also the chance that his recovery from COVID-19 could have some lingering effects that we don’t know about. There’s no evidence to support it, but football is a game about marginal effects. If COVID has sapped him of a little something, at this level that could make a difference as well.
Doherty’s a player that Spurs are going to need if they are going to continue to push for multiple cup titles this season. That starts with today’s FA Cup match but will continue as Spurs play two matches against Wolfsberg in the Europa League in the coming weeks. If more minutes and patience are what’s needed in order for Doherty to improve, then that’s what he’ll get. Fans may find it tougher finding the patience, though.