Comment and Analysis @p_smith86
How Ben Davies stepped up from his back-up role to become a key figure for Tottenham
Last Updated: 20/10/17 6:08am
Ben Davies may have missed Tottenham's draw at Real Madrid but he has played a key role in Spurs' strong start. His Wales coach tells Peter Smith the talented wing-back's hard work and commitment is paying off...
Let's talk about Ben Davies. That was Mauricio Pochettino's suggestion to journalists after Tottenham's 4-0 rout of Huddersfield at the end of September. "If we talk about one player other than Harry Kane, it's Ben Davies," said the Spurs manager. His Welsh wing-back certainly warrants attention.
While striker Kane has been hogging the headlines since overcoming his August drought with a feast of goals for club and country, Davies has quietly become a key cog in the sleek, stylish Spurs machine.
His absence due to illness in the unconvincing 1-0 win over Bournemouth was clearly felt and, although Spurs produced an impressive performance in Madrid on Wednesday, Pochettino will be eager to involve the fit-again 24-year-old against Liverpool on Sunday.
Capitalising on Danny Rose's absence since January through injury, Davies has stepped out of the shadows of his back-up role and shown himself to be a threat, surging up the left flank, while, at the same time, a reliable member of one of the Premier League's best defences when Spurs are on the back foot.
"For me, he is one of the best full-backs in the Premier League," Pochettino said after watching Davies register his second goal and second assist of the season in the win at Huddersfield. He was later lamenting the full-backs' absence due to illness against Bournemouth and Real Madrid.
For me, he is one of the best full-backs in the Premier League.
Mauricio Pochettino on Ben Davies
In six Premier League appearances this term, Davies has already matched his best goal contribution tally for an entire season. One more goal or assist and he'll have bettered Rose's return from 18 starts in 2016/17.
Defensively, he has helped Tottenham to the second best clean sheets and goals conceded record in the Premier League this calendar year. He is doing it at both ends of the pitch.
Davies is flourishing and that's reward for his dedication off the field, says Pochettino: "He was working so hard to make his moment, and always being professional. That is why his team-mates, the club, everyone is so proud of him."
That commitment to improvement is something Dr Ryland Morgans, Wales' head of performance, has witnessed first-hand, initially as Swansea's head of fitness and science, coaching a young Davies as he made his early steps into the professional ranks, and then with the national team, where the defender is now an important figure.
"He's coming to the fore now under Pochettino at Tottenham and I'm not surprised to see him produce the performances he does," Morgans told Sky Sports. "He's a top professional in terms of what he does and how he does it. He's dedicated to his profession, dedicated to doing things as well as he possibly can and dedicated to getting better and better.
"I first worked with him at Swansea, when he was quite a young, developing player. But, although he was young and quiet, he was very reliable. He'd always 'turn up'. Now you see him and he's still got that calm, collected but determined attitude. He's got a great mentality for playing at the top of the game."
Davies has got that calm, collected but determined attitude. He's got a great mentality for playing at the top of the game.
Dr Ryland Morgans on Ben Davies
Davies' athleticism - only Dele Alli has out-run him in Tottenham's past two Premier League games he has played in - and adaptability have also been important aspects of his rise to the top.
He has the ability to play in a range of positions - from forming a two or three-man centre-back partnership, acting as a defensive full-back or attacking wing-back - and that, says Morgans, reflects his varied skillset and impressive physical traits.
"He can deal with all those positions and that's testament to him in terms of his physical profile, because physically, technically and tactically they're very different," said Morgans.
"From a physical perspective, he's a very good athlete, but he also reads the game well. For example, he can time his jumps very well and is clever in the way he defends, often preventing an attack before it has occurred.
"But I think that goal and assist against Huddersfield will signal the start of him taking on that marauding left wing-back role as his own.
"He's such a strong runner, an excellent athlete, so he can get forward and get into the box to shoot or cross, or, if the move breaks down, he can recover and get himself back in. It's a demanding position but he has the physical capacity to cope with those demands.
"Week by week he's becoming more attack-minded. You can see he tactically understands his role at Tottenham and he has the technical and physical attributes to deliver."
Davies is certainly delivering for Tottenham right now. Despite missing Tottenham's past two games with illness, only Christian Eriksen has created more chances and made more accurate crosses. Only Kieran Trippier has more assists.
No longer a back-up option. No longer on the periphery. Now is the time to talk about Ben Davies.