Arguably the most controversial deal of the summer took Paris Saint-Germain’s Serge Aurier to Tottenham Hotspur, with questions surrounding the player, the price, and Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino. The fact one of Europe’s best right-backs was replaced by Dani Alves and allowed to leave PSG for £23 million is skeptical to say the least.
It was Aurier’s disciplinary problems that highlighted Unai Emery’s decision to sell the Ivorian, after he was arrested for driving under the influence, suspended for homophobic slurs against previous manager Laurent Blanc, and investigated by FIFA for a throat-slitting gesture made during an international friendly in which he saved another player’s life.
The player, who was not allowed into England for PSG’s Champions League fixture against Spurs’ local rival Arsenal, has now been granted access into the United Kingdom to join Mauricio Pochettino’s outfit. He made it clear on multiple occasions that it was to be his new dawn, his next and likely last chance to erase the previous couple of years on what was a clean slate before 2015.
That started on the weekend, against West Ham United, and immediately the full-back’s qualities were obvious as ever. Marauding down the right flank, Aurier showed physicality, attacking intent, the ability to control the flank from right-wingback, and most importantly, the requisite defensive solidity required to play in the Premier League.
Completing an incredible 11 defensive actions, a number only matched on the pitch by Jan Vertonghen, Aurier impressed viewers throughout, showing exactly why Pochettino took the risk of bringing him into the club. That was, of course, until he reminded everyone of the risk – he was sent off and put Tottenham’s result into danger as Slaven Bilić’s West Ham only narrowly fell short of a three-goal comeback.
Committing the most fouls on the pitch before being sent off, the 24-year-old perfectly explained his own difficulties in what will ultimately be regarded as a bright cameo. It’s why Pep Guardiola spend more to lure Real Madrid flop Danilo to the Etihad; why Barcelona splashed on Benfica’s Nelson Semedo, and why it took until deadline day for the former Toulouse man to seal his move to another club.
Aurier’s aggression, which was his advantage throughout the match, became a weakness as the former PSG defender was lured into making a pointless tackle and be dismissed from the pitch. Curbing his aggression, he could be the perfect defender and add personality to Tottenham’s ranks, but this will be a process that must be handled carefully by Mauricio Pochettino if it is to yield success.
Accruing almost 20 assists, averaging well above five defensive actions, and showing excellent positional versatility over the past five seasons in Ligue 1, it is clear that Aurier has the ability to be one of the most explosive defenders in England if he can prevent self-destruction.
Last week’s start was a perfect indicator of what lies ahead, but the challenge will only become greater as Tottenham’s opponents improve and attempt to target the 24-year-old who has years ahead of him to adjust to the rigours of the Premier League.