José Mourinho’s lack of trust in Serge Aurier is no secret. The Portuguese manager has not shied away from publicly criticising the Ivorian for his lackadaisical defending in recent times.
It is a judgement the defender has been unable to shake since his arrival from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017. As a result, the 27-year-old has been moved further forward by Mourinho, limiting his opportunities to wreak havoc in his own penalty area.
Mourinho has instead opted to play centre-back Japhet Tanganga out of position at right-back. The 21-year-old has appeared in six of the North London outfit’s previous last Premier League games.
The academy graduate was, however, recently given a chance at centre-back in the second leg of Spurs’ Champions League Round of 16 tie against RB Leipzig. Many at the club believe that it is where Tanganga’s future lies.
With a lack of depth at right-back, Kyle Walker-Peters loan to Southampton in January came as a surprise. The defender was expected to challenge for the right-back berth following Kyle Walker’s £50million move to Manchester City in 2017. However, the academy graduate was unable to displace Trippier in the starting line-up. He has made only 25 appearances in all competitions in the past three seasons.
Amid reports of Spurs’ willingness to sell the defender in the summer, it is unclear yet whether Walker-Peters has done enough on the South Coast to impress Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Prior to signing Aurier in 2017, a host of right-backs were linked with a move to Spurs in order to fill the void left by Walker. A player heavily rumoured with a move was high-flying wing-back Ricardo Pereira. The Portuguese international excelled during his two-season loan spell at Nice – one of those under future Southampton and Leicester City manager Claude Puel.
After making more than 50 appearances for the French side, the wing-back returned to parent club Porto. Pereira appeared over 40 times during the 2017/18 season, earning a place in Portugal’s 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
With Puel at the helm, Leicester City signed Pereira in the 2018 summer transfer window. It was originally thought the 26-year-old was brought in to bolster the Foxes’ attacking options, following the sale of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City.
However, Daniel Amartey failed to impress at right-back in the opening weeks of the 2018/19 season. So Puel made the decision to move Pereira from midfield into the back four.
Pereira hit the ground running, playing every minute of every Premier League game from December onwards. It wasn't until the arrival of the-now-Foxes manager, Brendan Rodgers, that Pereira started to earn recognition as one of the league's best right-backs. The Northern Irishman has given his full-backs, Pereira and Ben Chilwell, a new lease of life.
The latter’s form has tailed off since the turn of the yea. But Pereira has been a consistent performer down the right, validating his status as Leicester's 2018/19 Player of the Season.
Since making his debut in August 2018, no player has made more Premier League tackles (225). The 26-year-old has also made 104 interceptions, the third most of any Premier League defender in that time. Rodgers has restored the Foxes’ defensive stability to that of the title-winning season, with Ricardo playing an integral part.
Regarded as one of the most rounded defenders in the Premier League, Pereira has completed the most dribbles (124) of any defender since his arrival.
After an overreliance on Jamie Vardy for goals in recent years, the Foxes have gradually begun to share the load amongst the side. Pereira’s involvement in 13 goals during his time in England is the third-highest of all Premier League defenders in that period.
Mourinho has mixed and matched with his system since taking over at Tottenham. The Portuguese manager has regularly rotated between using a back three and a back four.
Despite playing in a back four at Leicester, Pereira was regularly deployed as part of a back five at Nice. His flexibility would be a useful addition for Spurs.
Leicester potentially have a readymade replacement for Pereira lying amongst their ranks already. Similar to Çağlar Söyüncü‘s emergence following Harry Maguire’s £85million move to Manchester United, James Justin has acted as understudy to Pereira over the past eight months.
The England Under-21 international was signed from Luton Town last summer and has shown early glimpses of promise. Particularly during the East Midlands side's run to the Carabao Cup semi-finals.
There were reports of Spurs readying a £30million bid for Pereira in January. But the move did not materialise. Leicester aren't under pressure to sell. So there would need to be a steep increase for the Foxes to allow their Player of the Season to depart for a top-four rival.
Players do not leave Leicester cheaply. But that would require Daniel Levy to put his hand in his pocket.