Toby Alderweireld’s muscular injury has gifted Japhet Tanganga a chance to prove Jose Mourinho wrong after the Tottenham Hotspur coach revealed his intentions for the academy graduate.
Mourinho has revealed he sees Tanganga developing into a full-back rather than a centre-half, having assessed his options to replace Alderweireld with the Belgian ruled out for the next two to four weeks after being forced off in Saturday’s win over Manchester City.
The blow deprives Mourinho of a veteran option he had started in six of Spurs’ opening nine Premier League fixtures, and is now left with Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and summer signing Joe Rodon as his recognised senior options.
Tanganga earned his Premier League debut under Mourinho when fielded at right-back against Liverpool last term, but was later also awarded minutes at left-back and centre-half having graduated from the U23s after playing 45 times in a central defensive role.
But Mourinho does not believe Tanganga is best suited to playing centrally and has stated that he will now only look favourably on the 21-year-old in the event of an emergency.
“For me, he’s a full-back. Can he play centre-back? Yes, he can, of course he can, and he will if we need him,” Mourinho said, via quotes by football.london.
“He can play centre-back, but for me in the context of what high-level football is and especially [the] Premier League is, I see him more as a multi-functional defensive player, but I see him more as a full-back.”
Given Mourinho’s comments on Tanganga’s future role at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Alderweireld’s muscular injury may come as a blessing in disguise for the Spurs product who is now fit once again after being plagued by back and thigh injuries since March.
Tanganga’s issues have restricted the London-born defender to just 70 minutes of action in any competition this season, coming in September’s EFL Cup win over rivals Chelsea when fielded at centre-half in a three-man backline.
But he now has less competition to build on those minutes with Alderweireld on the sidelines, and a slack showing from one of Dier or Sanchez in the Europa League against Ludogorets on Thursday night could see one of the pair miss out at Chelsea this Sunday.
Struggles at Stamford Bridge may then open the door for Tanganga to feature at LASK next Thursday as Tottenham look to lock up their progression through to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Mourinho has previously admitted to having great confidence in Tanganga’s potential, noting in February how he felt the young charger could become a first-team regular for years to come.
“Tanganga’s already in the dressing room, with [Oliver] Skipp,” Mourinho said, via quotes by BBC Sport. “Both are fantastic kids – both kids in which we believe a lot.
“The difference is with Japhet that the big opportunity appeared. With Skipp that has not happened yet – the big opportunity to start matches and play many minutes. But both are in the first-team dressing room. And our objective – what we are working on – is to make them Tottenham players for many years.”
Now is Tanganga’s chance to stake his claim to a more prominent role in north London and prove to Mourinho that his future can be at centre-half in the absence of Alderweireld.