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Tottenham 2020-21 Season in Review: Keepers and Defenders

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It was a tough year for Tottenham’s defense. Let’s take stock of the damage.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

The season is over, and we can finally sit back and take a bit of a breather. But before we do, let’s look back at Tottenham Hotspur’s players and review how they did over the course of what was a pretty disappointing season overall. Going from top of the table in November to 7th and qualification to the third tier European competition under an caretaker manager isn’t especially great!

Still, not all of Spurs’ players were bad, and there’s plenty to hang your hat on looking ahead to next season. Let’s start off today at the back, with the keepers and defenders. All rankings are out of 5 Chirpys.

Keepers

Hugo Lloris

Tottenham’s defense may have been shaky, but it’s in times like those when you want a truly elite shot-stopper between the sticks. That’s exactly what we got with Hugo Lloris this season. Tottenham allowed 45 goals this season, seventh best in the Premier League, and the reason they weren’t much lower in that metric is because Hugo had a very solid season for Spurs.

Lloris will always be criticized for his distribution and it again reared its ugly head this season on occasion, but it’s really hard to argue with his shot stopping numbers. It’s unclear as to whether Hugo will be with Spurs next season or if Spurs will sell him as his contract expires at 2022. Either way, it was a hell of a performance for Hugo in an otherwise crappy year.

Rating: 4 Chirpys

Joe Hart

The summer signing of Hart was an odd one, even though it was done in order to add to Tottenham’s depleted homegrown quota. Spurs should probably be thankful that Tottenham really didn’t need Hart all that much — Hugo didn’t miss a match in the Premier League, so all of Joe’s minutes came in the early stages of the Europa League, and the FA Cup. He played a total of 832 minutes, gave up four goals, and had four clean sheets. Can you judge a season based on such a pittance of data? We should be glad that we didn’t have to rely on him to shout the ball out of the net.

Rating: Incomplete

Alfie Whiteman

He was there, and continues to be handsome.

Rating: Incomplete


Defenders

Toby Alderweireld

If there was a defender that came out of this season looking as good as possible, it was Toby. Although he was in and out of the side under Jose Mourinho for reasons that only Mourinho knows, when he was in the side more often than not he was the most serviceable Tottenham central defender on the pitch. Restored to a regular place by Ryan Mason, he finished strong, but it’s also clear that at age 32 he’s lost a half step of pace and while he probably has another year or two left in the tank, Spurs should be looking for his permanent replacement as soon as possible.

Rating: 3.5 Chirpys

Eric Dier

Whoof. After successfully convincing Mourinho that he’s a central defender and no longer a defensive midfielder, Dier went out and basically laid an egg this season. Ponderous on the ball, slow to recognize runners, and usually good for at least one major derp per match, Dier had a shocking season. He’s been an admirable servant to the club, but it’s probably time for him to go.

Rating: 1.5 Chirpys

Davinson Sanchez

It’s starting to look as though Davinson might never show the extreme promise that Spurs hoped from him when they signed him as a young player from Ajax. It’s not that he’s a bad player — he certainly showed glimpses of ability over the course of the season. The season-ending match against Leicester is a good example of that (even if he was flagged for a soft penalty in a tussle with Jamie Vardy). The problem is that it’s become hard to trust him in defense, though he was often paired with Dier and that’s a problem in and of itself. I’m not ready to dump Davinson, but I’d like to see him alongside a more experienced and solid defender going forward. He’s still young enough that the mistakes can be coached out of him.

Rating: 2 Chirpys

Joe Rodon

Rodon was brought in as a defensive option from Swansea at the end of the fall transfer window, but bafflingly wasn’t registered for European competition, and also was only sparingly used in the Premier League (and not at all under Ryan Mason). Rodon has shown glimpses of ability, enough that I’d very much like to see more of what he can do, but with only about 1100 minutes of action under his belt this season he is still very much promise unrealized. Those glimpses have been pretty promising for a player coming from the Championship.

Rating: 3 Chirpys

Sergio Reguilon

It was a season of two halves for Reggie. One of the marquee summer signings for Tottenham, he started off the season bright but faded badly after picking up an injury in January, and his confidence fell along with his team’s fortunes. He had a number of horror-show matches late in the season, none worse than the loss to Aston Villa. Reggie has been at his best when he’s been allowed to bomb forward and has shown some outstanding quality at times, but has struggled defensively and has looked streaky. It might take a while to get the Mourinho stink off of him, but his upside is worth fans being patient with him. Some may feel that this rating is generous, but I feel his whole body of work warrants it, rather than how he ended the year. Six assists in his first year of English football is pretty good. He gets a summer off after not being called up for the EUROs, and that should help him.

Rating: 3.5 Chirpys

Ben Davies

It was a bit of a weird year for Ben. In and out of the side, he more or less split time with Sergio Reguilon in the league but played every match in Spurs’ Europa League campaign, bouncing back and forth between left back and central defense as needed. Davies took on sort of an elder statesman role this season, happy to do whatever was needed in the team. Not outstanding, not terrible. He didn’t play at all in April or May after picking up an injury in training. Ben’s never going to put in consistently amazing performances, but he’s usually just steady and decent when he plays. The question is whether that’s enough to keep him around with Ryan Sessegnon coming off of a very good loan at Hoffenheim.

Rating: 3 Chirpys

Serge Aurier

After some hit or miss seasons in North London, Aurier pretty much made the right back position his own this season and had more solid performances over the course of a season than I can remember him having. He also had, again, some notable derps, because even though he improved from last season he’s still Serge Aurier. Overall — more good than bad, but the bads were often extremely bad. He’s still an unreliable player and it’s probably time to move him on.

Rating: 3 Chirpys

Matt Doherty

You can make an argument that Matt’s overall performances was in part due to a confluence of factors including COVID-19, adaptation to a new team, and being misused by Jose Mourinho in a tactical setup that didn’t suit him. What can’t be argued is that he was really, really poor this season. We didn’t see at all what he supposedly does well — arriving late in the box and getting on the end of chances — and proved to be a huge liability on the defensive end. I don’t know if he’s as bad as what he showed in his first year at Spurs, but what we saw this year sure as heck wasn’t good.

Rating: 1 Chirpy

Japhet Tanganga

What do we do with TangGang? The sample size is small — just six Premier League appearances this season and only 900+ minutes of match time all season, but in those minutes he’s played surprisingly well for a young player ostensibly played out of position at right back. It was a tough season for Japhet, as he struggled with a long term injury early in the year that obviously doubt impacted his playing time. He had some pretty good performances in central defense in the Europa League at the end of 2020, and it’s notable that Ryan Mason turned to him over Doherty late in the league when Serge Aurier picked up an “injury.” He’s probably earned a chance to get in the rotation more, but I’m still not quite sure he’s good enough yet to crack the lineup as a regular starter. Hopefully he bounces back quickly from his late injury.

Rating: Incomplete