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Serge Aurier has evolved into the quintessential modern full-back under Jose Mourinho

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Serge Aurier has evolved into the quintessential modern full-back under Jose Mourinho

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Siddhant Lazar

02/19/2020

There’s always been something about the French and never living up to their talent from Hatem Ben Arfa, Anthony le Tallec and even Bruno Cheyrou. But then there’s Serge Aurier, an Ivory Coast star who is synonymous with never living up to the hype despite playing for France’s best and Tottenham.

Jose Mourinho loves himself a defensive defender. That no-nonsense, loves flying into successful two-footed tackles, and more importantly a conservative defender. It’s Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira at both Chelsea and FC Porto, it’s Javier Zanetti, Marco Materazzi and even Walter Samuel at Inter Milan, it’s Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo at Manchester United and the list goes on and on.

Even Maicon, a talented but perennially injured full-back, was the rare attacking option but Mourinho and the rest of Inter loved Javier Zanetti with him always waiting in the wings. So why or rather how has someone like Serge Aurier managed to play 1160 of the 1170 minutes in Jose Mourinho’s first 13 Premier League games? Only Toby Alderweireld has played more minutes than the Ivory Coast star with nobody else at Tottenham even coming close to Aurier's minutes.

It’s even more shocking when you realise that it’s the Serge Aurier. The same man who was ousted from Paris Saint-Germain for his incredulous comments and far from the reliable product many expect a Mourinho man to be. He’s, in the words of the brilliant Tom Victor, “A player you wouldn’t trust to park your car, let alone play in defence against one of the highest-scoring teams in the Premier League.” That says everything and it makes one wonder what does Mourinho see in the man who looks like anything but a reliable right-back.

But then a quick watch and the world realises that Aurier might just be Tottenham’s best defender and actually has a good shout to be their best player. Maybe, he even has a decent shout for PFA Player of the Year, alongside Jordan Henderson!! Not as a crazy statement as it may feel but under Jose and in his new system, Aurier has actually become a good player. The Ivory Coast international’s position on the pitch has seen him play further forward than ever before and yet barring Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira (4.3), Manchester United’s Aaron Wan Bissaka (3.9) or Everton’s Djibril Sidibé (4.6) of the players who’ve played more than 1000 minutes or more, nobody has more tackles than Aurier’s 3.3 tackles per 90.

But attempting so many tackles has to see Aurier get booked right? At least once, or twice or two hundred times over his twenty-two games so far, right? Maybe he’s even gotten a couple of reds to add to the multitude of yellow cards, right? And yet Aurier has just the three yellow cards to his name and that puts him 15th on Whoscored’s list for most yellow cards at Tottenham. Look at it from an even bigger metric and both Trent Alexander Arnold and Aaron Wan Bissaka have double the former PSG man’s numbers.

How? Because Aurier’s tackle success rate is brilliant with him outdoing everyone, not just in the league but at Tottenham as well, with a beyond impressive 80% success rate. Pereira and Trent Alexander-Arnold have a meagre 62%, Matt Doherty has a 46% rate and Manchester United’s tackling phenom Aaron Wan-Bissaka has a 69% success rate. Walk into Tottenham and neither Jan Vertonghen (59%) or Davinson Sanchez (55%) can match Aurier.

This is a trend that continues, for example, despite Aurier being only 5 foot 7 inches tall, no defender at the Tottenham has won more aerial duels than the Ivory Coast star and that is a list that includes Davinson Sanchez, Dele Alli, and Danny Rose. Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are amongst the club’s best but the former’s tally of 2.2 duels won per 90 is not that far ahead from Aurier’s 2 won per 90. But he’s a right-back for a reason, right? Because he’s obviously good at defending but hand the man the ball, and you have the greatest stand-up show since Eddie Murphy pulled Delirious out of a hat. And yet again, the great Aurier proves you, me and Dupree wrong because only Son Heung-Min (7) has more assists than the great Lens prospect (4).

Assists mean nothing anyway because key passes are where it’s at and even there Aurier trounces every Tottenham player but Son, with the South-Korean’s 1.4 only slightly higher than Aurier’s 1.2 key passes per 90. But then there’s the fact that even key passes mean nothing because chances created are what matter and, shocker, even there Aurier trounces all but three men at White Hart Lane. Meaning he creates more chances and at a better frequency than Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and even Giovani Lo Celso?

Aye, he does and to make it even worse, Aurier is actually rather good with the ball with the Ivory Coast star averaging 1.6 dribbles per 90 at a 66% success rate. Only, Tanguy Ndombele, Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son have more dribbles but only Ndombele has a better success rate at 80% which is just ridiculously high. But so, what if he can dribble? So can any half-decent Sunday league footballer because what really matters is crossing and getting the ball into the box for Hurrikane!!!

Otherwise, what’s the use of playing him so high up the field, right or at least that is the argument one could make until the statistic show that Aurier averages 0.94 accurate crosses per game. Terrible figures, right? But his cross accuracy of 19% is even worse and yet better than nearly every possible Premier League full-back the world could think of!! Ricardo Pereira? 10% accuracy with an average of 0.2 per 90 to Aurier’s 19% and 0.94. Ben Chilwell? 19% accuracy with an average of 0.7 accurate crosses per 90 to Aurier’s 19% and 0.94.

Andy Robertson? 19% accuracy with an average of 0.9 per 90 to Aurier’s 19% and 0.94. Matt Doherty? 11% accuracy with an average of 0.1 per 90 to Aurier’s 19% and 0.94. In fact, from a list of nine of the league’s best full-backs this season, only three men outdo Aurier with them being the Merseyside triplets in Lucas Digne, Trent Alexander Arnold, and Djibril Sidibe. The Everton right-back has an above-average 0.9 accurate crosses per 90 with a 31% accuracy, Digne has a rather impressive 2.3 accurate crosses per 90 with a 27% accuracy while the Red wunderkid has 2.4 and an accuracy of 23%.

Possibly the only stick anyone really has to beat Aurier with is the fact that he doesn’t create enough big chances per game/90 with just four created in twenty-two games. That corresponds with his four assists but it’s the only stick. Because Trent Alexander-Arnold has created 13 and Andy Robertson has 9 to his name and they’re freaks. Everyone else follows the defenders’ trend with Ricardo Pereira managing to create 4, Ben Chilwell has 5, Aaron Wan-Bissaka has 3, Djibril Sidibé has 4 and Lucas Digne has 7 with Matt Doherty topping off the list with zero.

Still think Tottenham need a new right-back? Well, just to prove your point Aurier, the defender who makes more errors than a Sunday league footballer, has zero errors leading up to a goal this season. That’s better than Davinson Sanchez (3), Jan Vertonghen (4), Toby Alderweireld (1), Trent Alexander-Arnold (1), Matt Doherty (2), Kyle Walker (1) and Ben Chilwell (2). Still think Tottenham need a new right-back?

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