Postecoglou's Emerson dilemma and the Spurs alternative he ignored vs Liverpool (2024)

Emerson Royal had a day to forget as Tottenham slipped to a fourth successive Premier League defeat. Having lost against Newcastle United, Arsenal and Chelsea recently, Liverpool inflicted even more misery on Spurs by winning 4-2 at Anfield.

Like Tottenham, the Reds had come into the game not in the best of form but they returned to winning ways with Ange Postecoglou's side handing them some real gifts inside the first 60 minutes of the contest. Having started brightly and gone close through Mohamed Salah and Harvey Elliott, it was the former who opened the scoring in the 16th minute with a header at the back post.

It was all too easy for the Egyptian to score as he was left unmarked in the six-yard box with Emerson not tracking his run. The Brazilian was guilty of watching the ball when Cody Gakpo was in possession down Liverpool's left and that allowed Salah to ghost in behind him and convert his teammate's cross.

Always going to be an incredibly tough afternoon for Emerson coming up against Salah and with Trent Alexander-Arnold always looking to bomb on, the full-back did notably help his team out on a couple of occasions with a fine tackle on Salah when he was through on goal before then getting a crucial block to the right-back's rasping drive from distance.

Liverpool were getting so much joy down their right flank, with Tottenham not doing enough to try and protect Emerson, who was playing in an unnatural position, during his pitch time. Things then came to a head at half-time with Guglielmo Vicario needing to come between Emerson and Cristian Romero as they became embroiled in a heated argument seconds after the referee had sounded his whistle.

It was something Postecoglou was asked about in his post-match press conference and the Tottenham boss indicated that the spat shows that both his players "care" and "it hurts them".

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"I didn't see it but a few people mentioned it," said the 58-year-old. "As I've said to others, they care. It hurts them. They're just not going to be happy with the current situation and because they care they want to improve.

"There's nothing wrong with that as long as it's done in a constructive way. Irrespective, the players I've been told who were involved they care. They want to change the situation and not accept it."

It was to get even worse for Tottenham five minutes after the break as Gakpo nodded in a third from Elliott's cross. Again, Emerson unfortunately had a role to play in the goal as he initially did well to win the ball off Salah before Elliott robbed him as he tried to turn and that resulted in Gakpo finding the bottom corner seconds later.

Emerson wouldn't be on the pitch for much longer as he made way on 61 minutes as Postecoglou rolled the dice by making a triple substitution. Without a recognised full-back on the bench, it was Oliver Skipp who took on the position and the midfielder fared well in what remained of the game as he played a part in Son Heung-min's goal.

Postecoglou was asked about Emerson in his post-match press conference and he did have some sympathy for his player due to the fact he was playing on the opposite side of the pitch than what he is used to.

"We're playing him out of position and it's kind of the way our season has gone," he said. "Whenever we've had injuries, invariably we've had them in the same part of the pitch. Both our left-backs are out and it's kind of forced him out there.

"It's not great for him and he's up against a pretty good player in Mo [Salah]. Again, that's something we have to deal with."

Postecoglou now has a big call to make regarding Emerson and the left-back position ahead of Saturday's Premier League encounter against Burnley. Perhaps not coming up against a player of Salah's quality this time around, Burnley are fighting for their lives as they bid to avoid relegation and Vincent Kompany will have noted Spurs' left-back troubles and will undoubtedly try and capitalise on it.

Without Destiny Udogie and Ben Davies through injury, Postecoglou perhaps only has three options when it comes to what he could do at left-back at home to the Clarets in Saturday's 3pm kick-off. The first is to persist with Emerson at left-back.

The ex-Real Betis man has played in the role on a handful of occasions this season and Postecoglou may see no other option but to start with the Brazilian in his team. That in turn would give the player the opportunity to bounce back from his Anfield nightmare and make the position his own in what remains of the season.

The second option Postecoglou could select is handing Skipp his first start in the Tottenham team since the win over Brentford in late January and playing him as a left-back. The 23-year-old was one of Spurs' better performers at Anfield and he will have given his boss something to think about ahead of the Burnley game.

It is a role the Spurs academy graduate has very little experience in but his defensive qualities and his ability to come inside and get on the ball could work in Tottenham's favour. Having a full week on the training pitch at Hotspur Way could also play into Skipp's hands if Postecoglou wants to utilise him there against the Clarets.

Another option open to Postecoglou is moving Micky van de Ven across to left-back and bringing Radu Dragusin in to partner Romero. The Dutchman has experience as a full-back having played in the role for Voldendam, Wolfsburg and the Netherlands previously but he's yet to feature there for Tottenham.

That would mean temporarily breaking up Romero and Van de Ven's terrific partnership but the benefit of it is that it would give Dragusin the opportunity to add to his Premier League experience. However, Postecoglou resisted the temptation of making that change on the hour mark at Anfield, which may indeed drop a hint over his thought process regarding playing the Netherlands international as a left-back

Whether or not Postecoglou would opt to move Van de Ven to left-back against Burnley remains to be seen and all will become clear when the team to face Kompany's side is confirmed at 2pm on Saturday. The Spurs boss really does have quite the dilemma on his hands when it comes to his Tottenham left-back.

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Postecoglou's Emerson dilemma and the Spurs alternative he ignored vs Liverpool (2024)
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