Matt Doherty’s place in the Tottenham pecking order was made clear on Sunday. So what kind of future does the right-back have at the club?
Serge Aurier was unavailable to play against Wolves with a groin strain, yet rather than play Doherty, the interim Spurs manager Ryan Mason opted for Japhet Tanganga at right-back.
Doherty was signed by the club from Wolves last summer for a reported £14.7m. At the time, it looked like a very good purchase for the club. Doherty had done well in the Premier League with Wolves and the fee seemed very reasonable. Right-back had been a problem position for Tottenham for some time and Doherty had a great opportunity to make that spot his own.
With the season now nearly over, it no longer seems a great deal. Doherty is now the club’s third choice right-back. To put that into perspective, Serge Aurier has been error prone and unreliable since joining Spurs in 2017. Doherty has proved to be no safer an option at right-back, with less attacking upsides.
Though Tanganga has played primarily as a right-back since breaking into the first-team squad, he is really a centre-back being played out of position. He has been preferred to Doherty for his defensive solidity, despite often looking ill-at-ease with the ball at his feet in the opposition’s half.
Doherty has only played 15 games in the Premier League for Tottenham this season. Much depends on what happens this summer, in regards to whether he can add to that tally.
Aurier looks set to leave the club and you would imagine that buying a new right-back would be something of a priority. Buying two right-backs in one summer could prove difficult and may give Doherty a reprieve.
A new right-back, along with Doherty and Tanganga, would give a new manager plenty of options in the position, next season. Presuming that Spurs qualify for some sort of European competition, there will be the opportunity for Doherty to stake his claim.
Doherty should hope that Tottenham appoint a manager that plays to his strengths. He was a wing-back at Wolves, but has mainly been used in a back four at Spurs. Should the club appoint someone like Graham Potter, who has favoured a system using wing-backs at Brighton, than Doherty’s second season could prove more fruitful than his first.
Should Spurs appoint a manager that wants to play with a back four, then perhaps Doherty will consider his future, with his position in the Republic of Ireland squad at stake. To stay at Tottenham in such a scenario would be akin to placing a bet at an Irish casino online and just hoping for the best.
The good news for Spurs is that if they do choose to sell Doherty, then they should have no problem getting their money back. For the right club, he would be a good option as a wing-back. Only time will tell if that club might be Tottenham.