If Tottenham Hotspur do recruit before the end of the January transfer window, it’s likely to be in attacking areas, where Spurs are struggling for bodies as they attempt to negotiate a critical portion of the season.
With Harry Kane and Dele Alli injured until March, Moussa Sissoko also sidelined, Mousa Dembele departed, and Son Heung-min absent at the Asian Cup, Mauricio Pochettino will surely direct any available funds to bolstering his forward and midfield options.
However, in the summer, the Argentine coach—should he remain with the Lilywhites—will surely divert his attention to various other problem areas of his squad.
One such concern comes at full-back, where Serge Aurier has endured a testing spell in London since signing from Paris Saint-Germain.
He’s wholly failed to displace Kieran Trippier as the club’s first-choice right-back, while his performances have often been characterised by rashness and poor decision-making.
One particularly miserable encounter came in Spurs’ 4-2 London Derby defeat by Arsenal in early December, when the former Toulouse man was clearly ruffled by the hesitancy of Juan Foyth alongside him and was visibly shaken by the Gunners’ periodic dominance.
Occasions have been relatively few and far between for Aurier this term—he’s started just four games—and at 26, the wideman surely needs to be at a club where he’s playing regularly.
Startlingly, he made the CAF Team of 2018 despite an underwhelming campaign at Wembley, but few regular observers could truly argue that he’s realising the potential he demonstrated as a younger.
As Spurs look to battle on multiple fronts, it’s imperative that they have reliable backup options across the back four.
Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported that Spurs were willing to listen to offers for the full-back, while his recent arrest for an alleged assault may hasten his exit from the English game.
With Aurier a costly and shaky deputy for Trippier, and Kyle Walker-Peters still demonstrating a certain naivety on occasion, Pochettino may be wise to turn his attention to Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
The full-back only made his debut in February 2018, but even with less than a year of first-team action under his belt, he’s already established himself as one of the finest in the division in his position.
In 2018, it was notable how quickly Wan-Bissaka adapted to life in the Premier League, winning Palace’s Player of the Month award in both March and August.
“It started with the chance I was given to play in the Premier League,” Wan-Bissaka told the club’s website.
“I was shocked when it happened, but it was a chance I had to take, and I feel I’ve taken it.”
It’s normal for young players to struggle with consistency during the early stages of their career, particularly for a club battling at the wrong end of the table like Palace.
However, Wan-Bissaka’s rise has been characterised by immense consistency, with the youngster clearly relishing the guidance of Roy Hodgson and the presence of experienced pros alongside him.
He’s thriving alongside Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins in Palace’s back line, and has impressed in duels with some of the division’s most menacing widemen—notably flourishing in the 3-2 victory away at Manchester City.
In 22 matches to date, the full-back has averaged 3.6 tackles per match—the third highest in the division behind Idrissa Gueye and Ricardo Pereira.
He’s averaging 2.4 interceptions per match—placing him joint seventh in the division—and no other full-back in the division can best him across the two categories.
Perhaps uncharacteristically, for a young full-back, Wan-Bissaka has excellent defensive basics, relishing the less glamorous side of the game, and demonstrating the kind of anticipation and positional sense that belie his slender years.
Admittedly, he can’t match the offensive contribution of other full-backs such as Lucas Digne, Trippier or even Jose Holebas, but that’s an element of his game that could blossom at a club higher up the league, who can impose themselves more readily on contests.
For now, however, Wan-Bissaka appears content to establish himself further at Palace.
“It’s a big thing for me, Palace are my local team,” he added, discussing his start to life as a professional.
“I aim to build a future with this team and to see where it takes us."
South Africa (@GoalcomSA) December 31, 2018
England appear particularly well stocked at right-back, with Wan-Bissaka, who is also eligible for the Democratic Republic of Congo, set to compete with the likes of Trippier, Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold for a spot should he commit to the Three Lions.
Spurs fans would be wise to hope that Trippier also has to deal with the wonderkid’s competition at club level as well, with the London-born youngster surely representing—at this stage—a better long and short-term prospect than troubled Aurier.