Former Republic of Ireland captain Kenny Cunningham still finds himself dumbfounded that Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte is still choosing to start Emerson Royal over Matt Doherty.
During Spurs’ 1-2 loss to Liverpool on Sunday, the team from North London lacked hunger, but that was to change when their Italian manager made an array of substitutions with the likes of Dejan Kulusevski and Republic of Ireland international Matt Doherty coming into the fray.
The tide began to turn, and within two minutes of both players coming onto the pitch, the home side were able to grab a goal via Harry Kane. These substitutions appeared to be the tactical change Tottenham needed to attempt to claw their way back into the tie.
While it was not to be for Spurs on the day, it may set off a lightbulb in Conte’s head as his side looked a different beast when Doherty came off the bench. This could be the performance that could put the Swords native back into Conte’s good books.
Speaking to Off The Ball’s Stephen Doyle after the pair commentated on this fixture, Kenny Cunningham spoke about how he holds Doherty in higher esteem compared to Emerson Royal.
“He might think that I certainly don’t,” said Cunningham. “We all understand Matt Doherty’s strengths are certainly in his attacking play. That has always been the case. We saw it at Wolves in terms of his stats in terms of goals and assists. Matt’s record at Wolves was absolutely phenomenal, and we have seen a bit of that at Spurs.”
“Does he have a strong defensive quality to his game? No. But if you are telling me Emerson Royal is more rock solid defensively than Matt Doherty, I certainly wouldn’t agree with that. I think he is very loose in that respect, and going forward, he actually gives you very little in terms of product in the final third.”
“This system Spurs are playing in with wingbacks, you have to get that width and a bit of penetration down the sides from your wingbacks. You haven’t got a winger in front of you, so you are very much dependent on those wingbacks.”
“We spoke about how well Doherty finished the season, I know he was injured for the last couple of games, but prior to that, he looked as if he had found his feet. I thought he looked as solid defensively as he ever had been!”
“We all know the quality of play he brings as an attacking threat, so for me, this is a very obvious one. We all want to see our own do well, but I can park that to the side, and what I am seeing, Doherty needs to play in this team because he gives them far more from an attacking point of view.”
“I think Spurs benefitted from when he came on, and it really helped Perisic. Perisic is a monster, and he can play anywhere, but in the middle of the park, he looked a bit out of sorts with his back to play. He was far more comfortable receiving the ball wide and driving at Trent Alexander Arnold. Those substitutions came just a little too late for Tottenham Hotspur.”
Tottenham will play their final game in the Premier League before the World Cup against Leeds United on the 12th of November at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
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