A winter break – a time to freshen up, a time to get the chemistry of your new team, a time to work-out new tactics, some are taking the break to a controversial level but for the young Japhet Tanganga, that’s a time to look back at a full month and say, “I’m living the dream.”
January 11, a clash with champions-elect Liverpool on the cards as Jose Mourinho tries to stop the high flying Liverpool team by throwing in a young, athletic and hardworking 20-year-old Japhet Tanganga on the scene.
Although, Tottenham Hotspur lost the battle against the Reds, there were positives to that defeat as the academy product emerged as a bright prospect for the Lilywhites.
Since making his debut against the Merseyside club, the defender has been impressive for Jose Mourinho, starting all but one of Tottenham’s games in all competitions stamping his authority into the game even as an inexperienced player.
Quite few people had really followed the progress of Tanganga in the youth team, and I will even debate if I was told he had been monitored by the ‘Special One’ for a very long time.
Noted for his abilities as a natural centre-back, Japhet Tanganga reveled playing quite a handful of games for the clubs Under-18 and Under-23 sides between 2015 and 2017. Just to let you know, he enjoys a position he is deployed in at the back.
The recent one he has been deployed in, the one that was meant to be for Ryan Sessegnon – the left-back position. Many would be impressed with the way he fared against a very tricky Riyad Mahrez in the 2-0 win over Manchester City at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Just before that game, he was made to end the hard-fought victory over Southampton in the FA Cup replay starting central but covering for Sessegnon on the left when the former Fulham boy escalated upside.
It may take time until people realise Jose is doing a ‘Scott McTominay’ with Japhet but the boy is grabbing his opportunities gradually, something Vertonghen should be worried about.
“It’s been great, being able to play at this high level, but it’s also been very testing physically and mentally,” said the young defender, taking a moment to assess the last few weeks during this newly-introduced period of down-time for the players.
“I hadn’t played left-back much before but honestly, these last few games that I’ve played have really helped my development, just understanding everything positioning-wise. I’m there to work, to do what the manager needs me to do and, to be honest, I’ll play anywhere. I’m happy to do the work for the team.
“This month has been a learning curve, but it’s been really good. You experience just how hard the players work and how hard you have to work – there’s not a moment in the game where you can switch off. That’s a difference from where I’ve gone from Under-23s football to first team football – I’m always focused, always concentrating because any slip-up and with the level of the players I’m playing against, they can get in at any time. It’s been very hard but very enjoyable as well.”
He doesn’t intend giving up on his spot yet and his imagination of first team football will only drive further if he keeps putting in such exciting performances.
“When called upon by the manager – whether it’s to start, whether it’s to be on the bench and come on or whether it’s not to be in the squad, I’ve just always got to be ready.”
With such a mentality, it could only put him above his competitors for a spot in the starting line-up.