When the signing of Cedric Soares was announced in January of 2020, it’s safe to say that a few eyebrows were raised among the Arsenal fan base.
The Portuguese full back was suffering with a knee injury and had fallen out of favour at Southampton, while the involvement of ‘superagents’ Kia Joorabchian and Jorge Mendes in the deal led many to question contacts-led direction that Raul Sanllehi seemed to be taking the Gunners’ transfer policy in.
Those eyebrows reached heights only Carlo Ancelotti could match after the decision was taken to give him a four-year contract despite the fact that he had played just five times for Arsenal who already had Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles available in the squad.
But just over a year later, the Portuguese international’s consistently solid performance are seeing the unexpected calls for him to become the Gunners’ first choice right back grow stronger every day.
“He’s a different quality in the full-back area than what we have,” Arteta said. “He’s a gifted, technical player and is probably the best we have in the final third to make the right decision and attack the box as well.”
Against Spurs he more than showed that yet again playing four accurate progressive passes and contributing a further five high value attacking passes (defined by Goal Point as passes successfully delivered to a teammate less than 25 metres from the opposition goal).
The only thing missing from his performance was a goal as his first half effort bounced agonisingly off the post after Alexandre Lacazette had let Emile Smith Rowe ‘s pull back slide between his legs.
Tottenham players’ reaction to Jose Mourinho
Watching Jose Mourinho on the touchline during a Tottenham defeat brings with it eerie echoes of what Mauricio Pochettino faced in his final season at the club.
Following Sunday’s north London derby defeat at the Emirates Stadium, the usual accusations of ‘negative Mourinho football’ were out there from all corners. While the Portuguese is certainly not blameless this season, there was something else at play on Sunday and it’s been a regular theme.
Quite how a Tottenham team featuring Harry Kane, Gareth Bale, Son Heung-min for 20 minutes, Lucas Moura, Erik Lamela, Tanguy Ndombele and two full-backs in Sergio Reguilon and Matt Doherty who had been given license to get into the opposition half, could be restrained by one man is a tough sell.
Mourinho actually made it a more attacking line-up than the one that beat Crystal Palace 4-1 seven days previously by making one change, Ndombele replacing the more defensive Harry Winks.
Watching Mourinho on the sidelines on Sunday and you can see how frustrated he gets with the lack of movement forward into space from his team.
Throughout this season he has been constantly yelling his player’s names from the technical area, instructing them to press higher up the pitch and his assistant Joao Sacramento shouts ‘press’ more than any other word in the English language.
Ultimately how the players respond or don’t to what he demands will decide how this season ends for Mourinho.
While nothing dampens a five-match winning streak like a north London derby defeat, the results of those around Spurs at the weekend meant that while they failed to capitalise, they have not lost ground on the immediate teams above.
Mourinho needs to find a way through to his players and get them to listen to him otherwise Pochettino’s fate could eventually end up being his own.