Yesterday, Tottenham Hotspur lost its first match since match week 1 against Everton. It did so away from home at Anfield and against the reigning Premier League champion, Liverpool. This result saw them leapfrog Spurs to claim the top spot after thirteen games into the season. This game was a frustrating one for Spurs fans to watch and perhaps an unlucky one for the team itself. One player stood out for the Lilywhites, though, just as he has been doing all season: Serge Aurier. As of writing, only two offseason additions can truly be labeled as \”starters\”. Sergio Regulión has added a dynamism and bolt of energy into the left-back position and has been a welcomed sight to supporters that wished to see a bit more bite in the attack. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has been arguably the most important offseason addition, supplying a calm and formidable presence in the middle of the park that Spurs fans have been crying our for the past two-plus seasons. A piece that many fans were excited about was the addition of a player that was expected to take over at right-back, Matt Doherty. Through these first thirteen Premier League games, nine Europa League games, and the one Carabao Cup game it has become obvious that Doherty has not dethroned the right-back from the previous Season, Serge Aurier. While Serge\’s form in the middle and at the end of last season fluctuated – seemingly with the form of the squad as a whole – Aurier has been lights out this season, posting an average match rating of 7.33 out of 10 according to the folks from sofascore.com. Having been involved in three clean sheets and making zero errors that have led to goals, Aurier has certainly tidied up things defensively. Serge has also provided some juice going forward by contributing a goal and an assist to the scoresheet this season. The Ivorian captain is winning more than half of his duels per game as well as completing 75% of this dribbles each game. His tackling was on full display against Liverpool as well. Serge recorded 10 tackles in the game – more than any other player in a Premier League game this season. Taking a peek outside of the stats, most fans would agree that Serge Aurier has been far more reliable and less erratic than in season past. Scott touched on a bit of team chemistry that plays into this in his article Protecting the Protector – The Role of Moussa Sissoko – which I highly recommend giving a read. There is another piece to this puzzle, however, and it is one that has come to the forefront in most recent games – Steven Bergwijn and his efficient play of the defensive winger role.
Since the latest break for international fixtures – where Bergwijn was incidentally sent back to London from the Netherlands camp for being out of shape – the right side of the starting eleven has picked itself when Spurs are at full strength. Aurier slots in at fullback with a license to join the attack, Sissoko in the midfield with a duty of protecting the center-backs as well as the space voided by Aurier when he does push forward, and Steven Bergwijn leads the line on the right-hand side. Bergwijn\’s role is two-fold and he is the perfect mold of player to play it. Bergwijn burst onto the scene in north London less than 12 months ago with a dream debut volley goal against Manchester City. He finished the 2019/2020 Premier League season with 3 goals and 1 assist. Fans want and have come to expect that offensive production from Steven Bergwijn on the right wing. Bergwijn, however, is offering something that is arguably more important than goals this season. Bergwijn has bought into the system and the mentality that José Mourinho is welling. So far this season he has sacrificed his own personal glory in the manner of goals and assists for the collective glory of clean sheets and taking home an average of 2 points per game. Bergwijn is doing the dirty work of meeting Serge at the halfway line, allowing Aurier to put more focus on defending a smaller space. Bergwijn is doing the relentless tracking back when the game is in its waning moments to protect his 18-yard box.
Bergwijn is a microcosm of what has happened throughout the entire 25+ man team of men in lilywhite (or rather that snazzy two-tone blue training kit). Every member of this team is playing like a family, just like Mauricio Pochettino taught them to do. The difference today, though, is that José Mourinho has shown this family the prizes they are playing together for. Tottenham Hotspur are no longer a team that are playing together simply because they enjoy it. They are playing together and sacrificing together because they see the glory they have chased after for so many years together. I doubt Steven Bergwijn or Serge Aurier know that José Mourinho coached teams tend to finish the season where they sit after match week 12 (Spurs were top of the table, by the way). I have no doubts, however, that both men and the rest of their teammates will do whatever it takes to make sure that the coincidental statistic gets another column added to the tally.