Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to right their midweek wrongs when they return to Premier League action this evening.
Jose Mourinho’s side head to the Midlands to face an Aston Villa side who are just one place behind them in the standings ahead of kickoff.
The north London giants embarrassingly crashed out of the Europa League on Thursday night, so now a desperate push for the top four is required if Spurs are to get back into the Champions League.
But tonight’s encounter is no mean feat, and Mourinho has plenty to ponder…
Individual defensive mistakes were once again the root cause of much of Spurs’ woes, so the Portuguese boss ought to make some changes to his backline, especially as Villa now have a prolific option in Ollie Watkins.
Mourinho was reportedly interested in signing the 25-year-old as a back-up to Harry Kane during the summer window, but he was always playing a losing game – firstly, no one wants to be a second choice, and secondly, he cost a whopping £33m with add-ons.
But boy, has that transfer paid off for Dean Smith. Watkins has bagged 12 times in all competitions this season, including a hat-trick against Liverpool and a brace against arch-rivals, Arsenal. Clearly, the “lethal” talisman likes to turn up for the big occasion.
Given the number of issues Spurs have had at the back, it seems like a recipe for disaster if Mourinho were to start both Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier – the pair were dubbed the worst partnership in the league by ex-Spurs midfielder and talkSPORT pundit Jamie O’Hara.
On the latter, he added: “As a centre-half, he just looks lost around the box. In my opinion, he needs to be dropped.”
And we’re inclined to agree. As we outlined after the Europa League game, the long-serving star badly let down the fanbase. Evening Standard reporter Dan Kilpatrick claimed the 27-year-old endured a ‘wretched’ night, claiming: ‘Defensively all over the shop and passing was poor. Gave away silly fouls.’
Watkins averages 2.8 shots per game and is fouled an average of 1.3 times per outing too, via WhoScored. So based on his midweek display, £85k-per-week Dier has no place to be starting as he’ll get torn apart, especially as he has only managed 0.8 tackles per match, too.
Another key ability of Watkins is his pace and acceleration, something that isn’t on Dier’s side either – speaking to Football Insider this week, pundit Alan Hutton claimed the Spurs centre-back “gets exposed at times with a lack of pace.”
Often lambasted as a “liability” amongst the fanbase, the £26m-rated calamity should be axed from Mourinho’s starting XI tonight. If he starts, he could well be haunted by Watkins all night, and then the pressure will only mount on the likes of Harry Kane and Gareth Bale to deliver.