It’s not been a great first season for Ben Davies at Spurs and it was somewhat summed up by the sad sight of him departing the pitch against Southampton having picked up a dislocated shoulder.
The injury came after a poor performance from Davies in which he was partly at fault for both goals. First he failed to react quickly enough to the chaos in the Tottenham defence, allowing Graziano Pelle to poke home. Then in the second-half Davies’ poor headed clearance gave possession back to the Saints, resulting in a cross that the Welsh international might have blocked if he’d re-positioned himself nearer to the wide-man. Once again it was Pelle who applied the finishing touch.
Overall it’s been a tough debut season for Davies. In the current climate of austerity and realism at Spurs, he was the one player that I wanted the club to sign last summer above all others. For too long we had struggled with just one recognised left-back in the squad and as one of the best young players in that position in the Premier League, Davies was a natural and affordable choice to fill the slot.
It was assumed by most that Davies would make the role his own, ahead of the much maligned Danny Rose. Instead things have turned out very differently.
For starters Rose was unfairly criticised and not nearly as bad a player as his detractors made out. As a young player learning a new position on the job, he was always likely to make mistakes. After a successful loan season at Sunderland, his early form under Andre Villas-Boas in 2013-14 was good. It was only after Rose picked up an injury and returned to the team under Tim Sherwood that things went wrong. The back four and in particular the left-side lacked protection and Rose was by far from being the only defender whose form collapsed.
Under the management of Mauricio Pochettino these were less frightening times to be a Tottenham full-back. Rose was not only better protected but also enjoyed an early season run in the team, despite the signing of Davies. Due to the injury problems of Kyle Walker, the lack of pace in Tottenham’s back four and indeed the rest of the side, meant that Pochettino had little choice but to play Rose most weeks.
Davies had to make do with occasional appearances, in which he looked surprisingly nervous and error-prone. It was thought surprising because of his previous form at Swansea, where he hit the ground running from the moment that he broke into the first-team as a teenager.
Yet perhaps the leap from being Swansea reserve player to a Swansea Premier League player for a 21-year old who was born and bred in the area, is not as seismic as leaving home to move to London and play for a bigger Premier League club where expectations are often unrealistically high.
Davies only turned 22 last week and has plenty of time on his side to settle in. The list of new signings who have taken a season or more to find their feet at Spurs is huge. He only needs to look at his Welsh teammate Gareth Bale for an extreme example of the sort of transformation that can be made.
If Rose’s current form continues it will be hard for Davies to get the run in the team he perhaps needs to bed in. That said, the good news is that these are two players who can co-exist. Rose’s pace and drive are his biggest assets, while Davies has the potential to be the better defender and already is a more considered deliverer of the ball.
Should Tottenham get both players at their best then they have the perfect situation of picking the right man for certain games. Despite Daves’ difficult first season, left-back is perhaps now the position where Spurs have the biggest embarrassment of riches.