If heated London derbies away from home are meant to be an arduous test for a young player starved of first team action, Juan Foyth didn’t get the memo.
The Argentine was imperious against West Ham last night in what was his first appearance of the season. If rustiness had been a concern pre-match, Foyth answered it with a performance reminiscent of a Rolls-Royce gliding seamlessly across freshly-laid tarmac. (The WD-40 firmly redundant on this well-oiled machine.)
At first glance Foyth’s game could be considered a hybrid of former Tottenham centre-backs of differing success. With the ball at his behest Foyth boasts a swaggering confidence and grace matching that of Vlad Chiricheș (albeit minus the calamitous desire for self-implosion); without it the Argentine defends with a steely grit mimicking the very best of a peak-Michael Dawson.
Come full-time at the London Stadium though, it was all change. To make a comparison regarding the 20-year-old was a case of the bigger the better. As well as voting Foyth their man of the match, supporters were mentioning the youngster’s potential in the same breath as Ledley King.
Of course, one swallow does not a summer make, and fans are too often guilty of prescribing weighty expectations upon players whose talents will likely not fulfil. But going off last night’s showing, it can be confirmed Foyth is the real deal.
You name it, he did it — and with aplomb: interceptions, blocks, clearances, neatness of passing, shrewd defending when facing his own goal and a handful of sublime last-ditch tackles — one in particular re-enacting King on Robben stride for stride.
But should we really be surprised by Foyth’s ability? It was only 18 months ago Spurs were battling with Paris Saint-Germain for the highly-rated Estudiantes youngster’s signature. After pipping the Parisians to the deal, Pochettino was quick to drum-up his signing’s capacity to succeed.
Pochettino’s faith in Foyth — as well as Alderweireld’s failed departure from White Hart Lane this summer — was most likely the reason as to why the club did not make a move for Ajax prodigy Matthijs de Ligt. Why should Spurs splurge £80m on a young, talented, ball-playing centre-half when they already have a young, talented, ball-playing centre-half in their ranks? And while Foyth may have announced himself proper last night, it was in another domestic cup tie that he really proved his worth.
Cast your mind back to a sub-zero January evening in South Wales: an 82nd-minute Harry Kane equaliser saved blushes as Spurs drew 1-1 with League Two’s Newport County. The game will be remembered as the night Tottenham survived a glorious FA Cup giant-killing, but in retrospect it should be remembered as the night when Juan Foyth proved himself worthy of the Spurs jersey.
On a surface better suited to the rugby team who share the pitch with Michael Flynn’s men, Foyth was the standout performer. Undeterred by the physicality of the opposition, the Argentine rose to the occasion and was uncompromising with his style of play — constantly looking to play out from the back despite the conditions. If this was Pochettino’s test for the then-19-year-old, he passed with flying colours.
Eight months on from that night in Newport, Pochettino reiterated his belief in the boy from La Plata: “[Juan] is 20 now and a great talent too. He is going to surprise many people. He is a great kid with a lot of quality to become one of the fantastic centre-backs in the Premier League and Europe too.”
And if last night’s efforts in east London were anything to go by, Pochettino’s prediction could not be far from the truth.
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