The veteran Welshman could provide more defensive stability for Spurs against Mo Salah and co…
Tottenham Hotspur know that a defeat would severely hamper their chances of finishing in the top four when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in the Premier League this afternoon.
Under interim coach Ryan Mason’s guidance once more, the Lilywhites came from behind to earn a point against Manchester United in midweek and will be hoping to build on that form today.
The Reds, meanwhile, could leapfrog Spurs with a win, so there’s a lot on the line, and after such a poor start to the season, the Merseyside giants are finally showing some life by going unbeaten in their last five games, including 13 goals in their last four.
Of course, a frontline with Mohamed Salah is always dangerous, and Mason must prepare for his threat, especially if Trent Alexander-Arnold returns to his natural right-back position.
Will Ivan Perisic or Ben Davies make their debuts against Liverpool?
As a result, the 31-year-old caretaker may be taking far too big a chance by starting Ivan Perisic at left wing-back.
The Croatian veteran has three goals in his last six Premier League appearances and leads the squad in total assists (seven), but he may lack the defensive nous and speed to compete with Salah and Alexander-Arnold for 90 minutes.
Indeed, 12 other players in the current squad average more tackles and interceptions per 90 than Perisic, while he ranks third overall in challenges lost (0.80 per 90), according to FBref, suggesting that he could be in for a tricky afternoon against a player who has scored 27 goals and provided 11 assists in 45 appearances this season.
Salah’s threat is undeniable, and according to FBref, he ranks fourth in the Premier League in total shots on target and expected goals.
Mason might be wise to go with Ben Davies, the more defensively sound and “reliable player” praised by his former manager Antonio Conte.
The £28m-rated Wales stalwart has often been deployed as a left-sided centre-back in a back-three and very rarely as a wing-back due to his natural left-back position.
Spurs, on the other hand, are unbeaten in his four appearances there, having kept two clean sheets against West Ham United and Chelsea. He also provided an assist against the former.
Having been dubbed a “beast of a player” and “world-class” by statistical analyst Ben Griffis only last year, the 30-year-old could be an ideal candidate to help silence Salah and co later this afternoon at Anfield.
He – and most likely Clement Lenglet – could double up on him down the left side, giving Heung-min Son space to counter-attack Alexander-Arnold, who is also suspect defensively.
Spurs rarely beat Liverpool, especially at home, but given the evidence above, Mason could help his team’s chances by starting Davies over Perisic.