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Can Serge Aurier handle more responsibility for Tottenham Hotspur & Ivory Coast?

18:40 EAT 11/06/2019
Serge Aurier Tottenham
Kieran Trippier’s anticipated departure from Spurs, and Eric Bailly’s absence at the Afcon could hand the wideman more authority at club and country

The dust had barely settled on Tottenham Hotspur’s Uefa Champions League 2-0 defeat, when rumours of player exits began to dominate the media narrative.

Christen Eriksen has hinted that he's after a new challenge after six years at Spurs, while Kieran Trippier is reportedly wanted by Italian giants Juventus and Napoli.

A transfer for England’s right-back could turn out to be a significant moment for Serge Aurier, his direct competitor at the club. The Three Lions’ full-back endured an average 2018/19 campaign by his recent high standards, but that hasn’t stopped the pair of Italian giants supposedly chasing his signature.

For Aurier’s part, the just concluded season didn’t go according to plan.

Serge Aurier | 2018-19 Premier League stats

After a mixed first year in the Premier League – which included occasional good games and several lapses of on-pitch discipline – the unspoken expectation was to experience more of the former and less of the latter.

However, niggling injuries as well as an apparent failure to gain the trust of Mauricio Pochettino contributed to the former Paris-Saint Germain defender making only 17 appearances in all competitions all season. For a bit of context, the firebrand played seven more games in the preceding year, his maiden season in North London.

Last season, Pochettino largely trusted Trippier over Aurier to occupy the right berth, irrespective of the Englishman’s supposed decline in performances. It was testament to how he currently sees the Ivorian.

Another line of argument could be that the former’s drop in form was somewhat reflective of Tottenham’s season. While a fourth-placed league finish, Champions League final and Carabao Cup semi-final could suggest performances were constantly stellar during the campaign, that assertion couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Lilywhites regularly churned out average performances in the league, and probably have Arsenal’s end-of-season wobble to thank for making it into the top four after faltering badly in the closing stages of the year.

Even though their run in Europe, which led to a first continental final since 1984 – when they defeated Anderlecht in the Uefa Cup –, was an amazing underdog story, it came on the back of some fairly poor performances.

Spurs only performed in fits and starts last year and that probably affected Trippier’s level.

The right-back’s involvement in last year’s Fifa World Cup in Russia should also be taken into consideration, as well as the little recovery time that followed. Having featured in the Three Lions’ third-placed playoff defeat by Belgium on July 14, he was thrust back into action a month later in Spurs’ 3-1 win over Fulham.

Several Tottenham players were involved in the latter stages of the showpiece in Russia, so perhaps it had an effect on their respective seasons.

If Trippier does depart, it leaves Pochettino with only two natural right-backs – Aurier and 22-year-old Kyle Walker-Peters. The recent financial constraints the Spurs manager has had to work through in the last year or thereabouts may prevent him from replacing the Bury Beckham, which leaves the Argentine to, yet again, find solutions within.

With Walker-Peters unlikely to be given the nod ahead of Aurier, the 26-year-old could potentially get his chance to make the role his own.

Before then, Aurier will have the opportuntiy to prove his worth and reaffirm his qualities during the Ivory Coast's upcoming Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

The Elephants’ top defender Eric Bailly misses out through injury, which leaves the right-back as the most recognized player in Ibrahim Kamara’s rearguard.

Having thrived when the West Africans won the biennial showpiece in 2015, the full-back must aim to repeat his performance levels from Equatorial Guinea four years ago.

The responsibility for firing the Ivorians past South Africa, Morocco and Namibia in Group A is likely to be in the hands of Wilfried Zaha and Nicolas Pepe.

Of the trio, Aurier is the only one to have played a prominent role in the Afcon previously, so he, at least, knows what it takes to succeed at the tournament.

With the Kamara’s leading defender absent, Aurier has the chance to grow into a greater leadership role with the West African nation, just as the onus will be on him to step up if Trippier departs North London.

Unfortunately, for club if not for country, the jury's still out on whether the wideman can be a success at North London. If he is going to 'make it' in the Premier League, then his right-back rival's departure may be the catalyst that he's been waiting for.