“He was so young when I arrived,” said a beaming Mauricio Pochettino after Tottenham Hotspur had made mincemeat of Huddersfield Town, beating them 4-0 .
“He was working so hard to make his moment, and always being professional. That is why his teammates, the club, everyone is so proud of him.”
Many might mistake these words were said in praise of a certain goal-machine named Harry Kane and rightly so, given how important the England captain has been for Spurs in the recent past. However, this lyrical wax by Poch, was for someone who isn’t always in the limelight as much as the rest of his teammates; someone who has quietly made a big name for himself in the past year with consistent performances one after the other. It is left-back Ben Davies.
“In the last three seasons he was so important for the team. For me he is one of the best full-backs in the Premier League.
“Today he showed a fantastic performance. Defensively and attacking, because he scored and gave an assist. His energy is fantastic,” Pochettino went on to add about the Welshman’s display against the Terriers last weekend.
Davies played a huge role in Spurs’ resounding win over the Premier League newbies, scoring a brilliant dinked goal in the first period, before laying on an assist late in the second half, for Moussa Sissoko’s first goal for the club. And now, he finds himself as the toast of the Tottenham faithful.
It hasn’t been easy by any means for Davies. The Welsh defender joined Tottenham in the summer of 2014 from Swansea City, but never really got a real good run-out in the playing XI, thanks to a sudden upsurge in form of a certain Danny Rose, who under Pochettino, developed into the Premier League’s most devastating left-back. Naturally, the lack of regular opportunity, apart from the odd cup games, will have been a reason of frustration for Rose’s understudy.
But Davies was never the one to get bogged down. He put his head down, he worked, he did what he was asked to do and waited for his opportunity. And the opportunity presented itself, when Rose picked up a knee injury at the start of the year. The 24-year old Davies has grabbed it with both hands.
Davies ended last season with a tally of 1 goal and 3 assists from 23 Premier League outings and has started off the new campaign on a strong note as well. Having missed just a single league game for the North Londoners in the ongoing campaign, Davies has already bettered his goal-scoring tally from last time, with 2 goals to his name already and 2 assists as well.
Impressing as a left-back in a flat back-4, the Wales international has excelled in the wing-back role in Pochettino’s 3-4-2-1 formation as well, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the system has helped Davies to develop and flourish in his attacking side of the game. The manager too deserves a fair share of credit as it looks like Pochettino has worked his magic again, just like he did with Rose before.
So now that the England international is close to returning to full fitness, what must Pochettino do? Stick with Davies as his first-choice or revert back to Rose, who had made such an impact that despite missing a large chunk of the last season, he was still named in the PFA Team of the Year?
Well the answer, for me, would be fairly simple and it would be that Poch continues with Davies. The Welshman has been top-notch for the Lilywhites ever since his teammate’s injury and Rose hasn’t really done his cause any good with the unwanted outburst before the start of the season.
Statistically speaking, the two were close to inseparable last season. Davies, in his 23 league outings, managed a goal and 3 assists, while Rose conjured up 2 goals and 2 assists. The Welshman created 27 clear-cut chances, compared to 26 by the England international.
Davies also enjoyed a better success-rate in terms of tackles (48%), but Rose wasn’t very far behind at 42%. The Englishman did do better than the former Swansea left-back when it came to defensive actions per game, standing at 5, compared to Davies’ 4. Rose made 25 interceptions last season, compared to Davies’ 11.
While it is a very good headache for Pochettino to have, especially considering the dearth of quality full-backs in the game, Davies needs to continue as the first-choice for Tottenham. The 24-year old has created 15 chances this term, which is the highest by any defender in the league so far and has also had most shots (10) on goal by any defender, indicating his increased confidence and attacking output. The Wales international has earned the right to stay as Tottenham’s left wing-back and Rose will definitely have his work cut out whenever he returns to the fold.