This season looks set to be another campaign of progress on the pitch for Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs have been building a potential trophy-winning side for a few years under the management of Mauricio Pochettino and it is a credit to the work he has done that no-one is now surprised to see them sitting third in the Premier League 11 games in.
A narrow defeat to Manchester United has played a part in leaving Tottenham eight points off the summit, but few would bet against them finishing in the top four for a third consecutive campaign.
The real measure of their development this term, however, has been in the Champions League; the North Londoners are undefeated thus far in Europe’s premier club competition in a group that contains holders Real Madrid as well as German giants Borussia Dortmund.
That represents remarkable progress from 2016-17, when they crashed out of the group stage with only two wins from a possible six.
Whilst credit has naturally been afforded to the attacking talents of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, there is another player who is fast making himself indispensable to Pochettino.
Ben Davies has lived in the shadow of Danny Rose since joining the Lilywhites back in 2014, but the England star’s recent injury problems have afforded the Welshman the opportunity to finally make the left-back slot his own.
Leeds United academy graduate Rose had not started a Premier League fixture since suffering a knee issue in the first half of a 0-0 draw with Sunderland at the end of January, before making an appearance against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
In his absence Davies has flourished and despite his team-mate now being back available for selection, the Welshman should be considered first choice.
He has long been seen as the dependable understudy, lacking Rose’s pace and threat going forward but capable of stepping in and doing a job when required.
Davies’ stats this season indicate that he has worked hard to develop the attacking side of his game and he already has two goals and two assists in just seven Premier League appearances.
Compare that to Rose’s tally of two goals and three assists in 18 league outings last term and you can see that there is no discernible difference in their offensive output; if anything, Davies edges it.
Going back the other way, the former Swansea City man is positionally aware and perhaps just slightly more defensively savvy than the Englishman.
Standing at six feet tall, Davies also offers greater aerial protection and has undoubtedly benefited from being able to play at centre-half, where he performed so admirably during Wales’ run to the semi-finals of last summer’s European Championships.
It has been a difficult road for the 24-year-old at Tottenham and the form he is displaying now is symptomatic of the confidence that comes with knowing that he is at the forefront of his manager’s mind.
For three seasons he has been eating scraps from Rose’s table, knowing that a poor or even indifferent display would see him out of the side for the next match.
The challenge now will be to sustain his current levels of performance knowing that his team-mate is chomping at the bit to displace him from the starting XI.
After biding his time for so long, there is no reason to think that Davies will give it up without a fight.
Written by Gareth McKnight
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