When Tottenham Hotspur signed Matt Doherty from Wolves for £15 million, it had the makings a shrewd capture. At Molineux, the Irishman took his game to new heights under the club’s manager, Nuno Espirito Santo. In 2019-20, Doherty scored four goals and created a further three for Wolves, while he also played a pivotal role in the team keeping 12 clean sheets. His move to Spurs, however, has proved to be a little underwhelming. But what’s gone wrong? Well, let’s consider a few factors.
Mourinho Has Doubts About the Irishman
According to ESPN, Jose Mourinho is unsure if Doherty can perform to the level required to be successful at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. As such, there’s mounting speculation that the Portuguese manager may let the full-back depart the club at the end of the 2020-21 season. At the beginning of the campaign, the 29-year-old played a pivotal role in Tottenham’s early success, starting six of the opening eight matches. Of those which he featured from the start, the North London club won four games.
Since that period, however, his opportunities have been limited. Between matchday nine and 26, the Irishman started three more games, including a home win against Leeds, in which he saw red. Unfortunately for Doherty, it speaks volumes about how Mourinho currently rates him that, against Manchester City and West Ham, the Spurs manager started Japhet Tanganga at full-back ahead of him during the absence of Serge Aurier.
Even though Mourinho hoped to move on Aurier in the summer of 2020, he has since worked his way back into the manager’s first-team plans. In terms of how he compares to Doherty, Understat’s comparison matrix details that the Ivorian offers far more in offensive phases of play, registering an xA90 (expected goals from key passes per 90) of 0.23. Compare this to the Irishman’s tally, which sits at 0.07 and you can understand the manager’s decision.
Is the Manager to Blame?
Mourinho’s critical style is now one of the worst kept secrets in world football, and Doherty may be the latest player to feel his wrath. For one reason or another, the Irishman hasn’t done enough to show the Portuguese coach that he’s capable of playing at the top level. However, results suggest that Spurs typically do well with the full-back in the starting side. Interestingly, Richard Dunne, a former Ireland international, believes that Doherty is struggling from the “Mourinho Effect”. At Wolves, Espirito Santo’s five-back system limited the amount of defending that the 29-year-old had to do, thus freeing him to attack.
At Tottenham, Mourinho values defensive solidity above offensive output. Unfortunately, that works against Doherty. Dunne isn’t alone in questioning the Spurs’ manager’s handling of the Irishman, with David Connolly stating that the former Wolves wing-back doesn’t suit his new club and their coach, as per football.london. As a result of the games that Tottenham still have to play, they’ll likely need Doherty to perform when called upon later down the line. Aside from chasing Europa League success, Tottenham are also seeking Champions League qualification. As of March 1st, the Lilywhites are 4/1 in Premier League betting to finish in the top four at the end of the season. Although, because of Mourinho’s handling, how much Doherty has influenced those odds is uncertain.
Doherty and Mourinho Don’t Appear Well Suited
What promised to be the biggest opportunity of Doherty’s career has slowly turned into something of a nightmare. While, of course, he’s not yet been able to replicate his Wolves form, limited chances have unquestionably impacted his match sharpness. That said, Aurier has seemingly turned his career around in North London, so there’s nothing to say that Doherty can’t do the same.