This was not news I expected or wished to wake up to. According to Ange Postecoglou, speaking to the media ahead of Tottenham Hotspur’s match away to Brighton on Thursday, central defender Cuti Romero will miss the next 4-5 weeks with a hamstring injury, sustained in the first half of Spurs’ 2-1 win over Everton on Sunday.
“It’s not so great with Romero. He had a scan the other day. He’s got a hamstring strain. So we’re looking at probably four weeks, five weeks for him. Everyone else from the last game …. yeah, it was pretty demanding physically in terms of the numbers we generated that day. Both us and Everton. It was quite extraordinary. So fair to say the boys were a bit fatigued but had a couple of easier days so everyone else should be OK.
“[The injury] doesn’t change anything. Disappointing to lose him, for sure. We obviously missed him with the suspension and now, we’d just got him back and kind of steadied things up and obviously we have him missing again for quite a chunk of time. But it doesn’t change really … you can’t accelerate time, mate. It’s still December. January 1st stays January 1st irrespective of our situation. The plans and the planning is still in the same shape.”
Well, shit. That’s bad, bad news. It means that either Eric Dier is set for an extended stay back in the first team, or Postecoglou is going to run with the Oops, All Fullbacks! back line again. Either way, it’s not good. Five weeks means basically no Cuti until the end of January, which ironically might mean he could be back in time for the return fixture at Everton on February 3.
It might not be THAT bad — Ange even said Micky van de Ven could return to the first team as soon as the trip to Old Trafford on January 14, which would be wonderful. But we also shouldn’t necessarily expect him to go full 90s right away either.
“I’ve said before I wouldn’t be taking players’ views on their recovery process. He’s getting closer, we’ll see him sometime in January. I don’t think Burnley but Man United on the 14th I think potentially. But again, I don’t ok at comeback dates until I see them training with us and he’s not part of the group. He’s not due to be part of the group this week, we’ll see how he’s going by the end of the week. Once they start training with the group we’ll think about when they’ll be available. He’s at the tail end of it for sure so at some point - middle of January definitely we’d think he’d be available but how we use him then, after such a long absence, is going to depend on where we feel he’s at.”
This also might light a fire under the recruitment team’s asses to get a central defender in as soon as possible in January. They’re likely doing this anyway, but Cuti’s absence puts a finer point on it, and would allow Jean-Clair Todibo or whoever they end up bringing in an opportunity to establish themselves in the team right away.
And speaking of, Postecoglou said the team isn’t recruiting necessarily a defender who can deputize for Micky, i.e. a left sided center back — they’re just looking for the best CB available that fits the profile they want to bring in.
“I don’t put as much stock into the left-sided or right-sided centre-back scenario, we just need another player in that position who can provide some more depth for us and the ability to change it up. It won’t matter if it is left-sided or right-sided, it is more the profile and characteristics. We didn’t go looking for a left-sided centre-back at the start of the year, it just happened that Micky was the perfect centre-back. Even if we had another left-sided one, I still would have signed him. It is about looking at the right profile, the right characteristics and seeing what is available, then going from there.”
Let’s hope whoever does come in hits the ground running. We need them, and considering the absences in January for AFCON and the Asian Cup, we’ll need everyone who’s staying behind at full effectiveness.