It must have been a surreal experience for DeAndre Yedlin at Hotspur Way this week. Having signed for Spurs, yet playing back in Seattle, the American International got a first hand experience of what it would be like to train at our facilities.
In spite of those that say the deal is just a signing to boost our brand and presence in America, Yedlin is actually the type of full back that Mauricio Pochettino needs.
His transfer officially commences on 1st January and he could become available if his application for a Latvian passport goes through or we can obtain a work permit.
Whatever happens, he should really wait until next season before we see him in a Spurs shirt. DeAndre Yedlin does play in the manner that Pochettino requires, but bringing in a young and extremely raw talent midseason to do anything other than train and get used to the team would be a mistake.
Full backs for Pochettino
With our narrow formation and inverted wide forwards, the width needs to come from our full backs.
We’ve seen this from Danny Rose on the left. He has attempted by far the most crosses from open play by anyone in the team with 42. Second equal are Erik Lamela and stand-in right back Eric Dier with 19 attempts. Our other right back, Kyle Naughton, has just 8 attempted crosses.
This highlights part of the problem Mauricio Pochettino has, unbalance between his left and right full backs.
Eric Dier looks like a centre back playing at right back and doesn’t have the speed to get up and down, so often can’t get quickly enough in to advanced positions.
Kyle Naughton has more speed, but plays a cautious game, getting forward but just not high enough up the pitch.
If we look at his performance against Aston Villa we can see this and the knock-on effects.
The first is how directly the ball is being moved to him, with passes originating out of the centre of midfield, often over great distance. The second is that he gets almost up to the edge of the opposition box, but no higher.
This affects his crossing position, as he is putting balls in to the box from much further out. This gives defences more time to see the ball coming in, adjust their position and react.
Eric Dier at right back is similar. Again we see the amount of passes sprayed out to him from the centre of the park, but he doesn’t even get as far up as Naughton.
DeAndre Yedlin provides a much more attack-natured full back. He has great speed and athleticism to get up and down the right flank. He is yet to play at the Premier League level, but for both the American national team and Seattle Sounders he has shown a number of core competences.
1) He likes to get forward, especially on the overlap.
2) He plays with great width, often hugging the touchline.
3) He can dribble and go past his opponent, especially in 1v1 situations.
4) He provides good crossing that is difficult to deal with.
We saw this in America’s World Cup match with a highly talented Belgium side. DeAndre Yedlin spent a vast amount of the match getting in to the opposition half in order to receive the ball. The USA were chasing the game, but Yedlin took possession often directly out from the midfield, but also in to very high attacking positions.
Once there, he has a skill that both Naughton and Dier do not possess, that of being able to take his opponent on.
DeAndre Yedlin gave our own Jan Vertonghen some serious problems with his speed. So much so that Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel often had to rotate over on the cover to double up on him.
What this did was allow DeAndre Yedlin to get in to good crossing positions much higher up the pitch.
Whilst his crosses may not complete on Stats Zone, they can often have other consequences, which are equally as dangerous. By that, I mean that if it doesn’t find his man for a shot or knockdown, it can often cause opponents to stretch and miss-clear, leading to second chances.
For example, a lunging Bruno Alves in USA’s group game with Portugal deflected Yedlin’s cross, which lead to Clint Dempsey’s go-ahead goal.
Against Belgium, he served up another cross that saw the ball knocked down to Jermain Jones right in front of the goal. Amidst the scramble, Jones could only fire the loose ball over the bar, which would’ve made the game 2-2.
Another example, from last season’s MLS Cup Playoffs 2nd leg match with Portland, saw him skin full back Michael Harrington from a standing start. He then delivered a beauty of a ball on to the head of Eddie Johnson.
Yedlin’s crosses are often delivered with pace in to dangerous areas and even if they don’t find a team mate’s head, they can have knock-on consequences for defences.
DeAndre Yedlin defensively
Whilst DeAndre Yedlin has a massive upside in the attacking phase, defensively in the Premier League will be where he comes unstuck if he is brought in straight away.
He is quick and can intercept the ball, whilst also able to make a tackle. His problems though are often concerned around the areas of concentration and positioning, which is completely understandable for a 21-year-old full back.
Another Spurs player, a former one this time, highlighted this in their recent meeting in the MLS. Jermain Defoe put his Toronto side in front, but DeAndre Yedlin was caught watching the ball. He was looking outside to cover the wide player, when he should’ve been closer to his centre back to not allow Defoe through the inside left channel.
The pass went straight between Yedlin and his centre back that he had become separated from, with Defoe gobbling up the chance. It was the kind of play that a wily Defoe has done to many an inexperienced defender before, but highlighted a certain naivety.
This was partly down to positioning, but also concentration, which appears to be another part of his game that needs ironing out.
Here, he switches off from a Portland free-kick, allowing Rodney Wallace to cross for Mamadou Danso to put the Timbers 2-0 up.
Earlier in the game, he also let Wallace drift by him, watching the winger move in to a high-risk area as the ball comes across the goal.
His speed can see him recover and halt opposition counter attacks. However, positioning errors and concentration lapses like this are usually punished in the Premier League.
DeAndre Yedlin should wait until the summer
With our current troubles at right back, it may be tempting for Mauricio Pochettino to bring DeAndre Yedlin in straight away, but this would be a mistake for two reasons.
Firstly it is very difficult to come in to any team, yet alone a new league that is of a much higher standard, and hit the ground running in January. It is midseason, the games come thick and fast and his confidence could get blown away if dropped in too soon.
Kyle Walker has just returned to training and although he may be several weeks away from making a full return and we won’t want to rush him in to several games on the spin, we do have Naughton and then Dier as backup. These two may not be the exact correct fit for Pochettino’s system, but they have much more experience at a higher level.
Secondly, DeAndre Yedlin is a really raw talent that needs to be coached up to the Premier League level.
In the attacking phase he looks like a serious prospect already that will need fine tuning to Mauricio Pochettino’s system.
In the defensive phase more skilled players will open him up. This is not just with the ball, but also by their movement and the speed with which play develops here compared to the MLS.
DeAndre Yedlin is still just 21-years-old and whilst he will develop in to a very capable back up for Kyle Walker, he shouldn’t be rushed in as a solution to fix a short-term problem. If he does get his passport, give him six months just training with the side, even working and playing with the development squad, to ease him in for the next campaign.