Reguilon offers reminder of when Spurs were good

Dave Tickner

It didn’t start well. Less than 20 minutes had elapsed of his Spurs debut when Sergio Reguilon went diving in to a rash challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta in a bid to atone for his own error in ceding possession.

Having got nowhere near anything, Reguilon was out of the picture as Azpilicueta set up Timo Werner for the opening goal.

It was very bad defending. It was two bits of very bad defending.

But really that makes it all the more impressive that a couple of hours later he was leading Tottenham’s own man of the match poll ahead of Erik Lamela, who impressed all night in an unfamiliar false nine role and scored the goal that took the game to penalties, and Eric Dier, who ran off to have a poo and then scored first in the shoot-out.

After the perhaps understandable nervous energy and over-exuberance of those first 20 minutes, Reguilon really was excellent. His move to Spurs from Real Madrid was, inevitably, overshadowed by #BaleIsBack but at £28m – even with buyback shenanigans – he looks like a superb acquisition.

Spurs were excellent in the second half, not least given that this game came two days after the disappointment against Newcastle and two days before a vital Europa League play-off game, and were full value for the equaliser that took them to a high-quality shootout that was only settled when Mason Mount narrowly missed the target after nine flawless penalties.

It was a big night for Spurs, who had already had an interesting Carabao campaign without setting foot on a pitch, keeping them involved in one of the three competitions they stand a chance of winning until at least December.

But even had they lost that shootout, that second-half performance would still have been significant. It was the best, most cohesive football Spurs as a team (outrageous Kane-Son double act nonsense notwithstanding) have played for quite some time, and Reguilon was a huge factor in that.

His was a slightly opportunistic signing, of the sort Spurs should have been making two or three years ago, but didn’t. There were more obviously gaping holes in Spurs’ team and squad than at left-back, where Ben Davies has been a solid citizen, but Reguilon is a massive upgrade, his movement and the positions he took up going forward very reminiscent of Danny Rose circa 2015-17. That is, Danny Rose when he was absolutely bloody brilliant.

For everything else that has gone awry at Spurs since Mauricio Pochettino’s team was at its peak, no one thing is perhaps more glaring than the difference between Kyle Walker and vintage Rose’s brilliance in the full-back positions and those who have followed.

Spurs have, under Mourinho, become a lopsided attacking team, with Serge Aurier attacking down the right and Davies generally tucking in and sitting back.

It’s very, very early days, but Reguilon has already offered Spurs fans a tantalising reminder of how different and good they once were and, heaven help us, could one day be again.

Long before he provided the assist for Lamela’s equalising goal, Reguilon had already done enough to ensure a night that could have been a disaster for Spurs was not a write-off.

And even as the celebrations began after Mount’s miss, there was a sense of significance that extended beyond an extended cup run and victory over a local rival.

Reguilon showed in 45 minutes when he was the best player on the park that Spurs will be a better balanced, less predictable and more entertaining team to watch than they were without him. It’s a pretty good debut.

Dave Tickner