Nuno Santo’s first competitive match in charge of Tottenham Hotspur is less than two weeks away and he must avoid walking into his first big mistake at the club.
It is widely expected that Eric Dier will start their encounter against defending champions Manchester City on the opening weekend of the Premier League campaign.
“This is where I’m really going to upset people. I’d be surprised if Dier isn’t starting that first game against Man City,” revealed football.london reporter Alasdair Gold to the ‘Gold and Guest talk Tottenham’ podcast.
“I just kind of feel where we’re at now, with Romero coming in very close to the Man City game – hopefully before. I’d be surprised if we see a very different centre-back pairing against Manchester City.
“Alderweireld is not there, so you have one change definitely, but I’d be very surprised if Eric Dier isn’t playing in that game.”
If the Portuguese has done his homework, then he should know that this is a massive risk.
Spurs’ backline was one huge problem, if not the biggest problem, last season. They leaked more goals than any of the other ‘big six’ teams, including arch-rivals Arsenal, who finished below them in the table.
In fact, his performances saw him miss out on a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020, whilst he and Davinson Sanchez were deemed “one of the worst” pairings in the Premier League.
A defining theme of the Lilywhites’ struggles were these individual errors in defence – “Recently our team makes little important mistakes that are punished in terms of our results, and Eric was one of them,” Mourinho claimed back in February.
Furthermore, Alan Shearer blasted the Englishman’s defending against Leeds United to The Athletic in May, claiming that he was given “the runaround” by their attackers, with Danny Mills describing him as a “defensive calamity.”
There has long been an argument questioning whether the 27-year-old should still be a centre-back or revert to his old defensive midfield position.
“Dier is an alright player but as a centre-half he just looks lost around the box,” questioned ex-Spurs star Jamie O’Hara back in February. Indeed, it’s worth a thought.
Across the last two seasons, the £85k-per-week Dier has seen his numbers regress at an alarming rate, recording fewer tackles and interceptions per game, as well as struggling to surpass an 83.2% passing accuracy, via WhoScored.
Considering that Nuno’s system will set up for a quarterback-like presence in defence, Dier may not be the answer and this may well go punished against a side of City’s calibre, with the firepower of Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and many more on offer.
If Spurs seal the signing of Cristian Romero from Atalanta in the coming days, then there should be enough time to throw him into the deep end, and if Joe Rodon is to be the man in the future, there would be no harm in starting him instead either.
Nuno must avoid making his first big blunder as Spurs boss by including Dier as a centre-back against the reigning champions.