Fo Davinson Sánchez, it was a moment of frustration and pain, when the form that forced Tottenham to make him their record signing in August 2017 and had supported him extensively during his first three seasons at the club mysteriously left him.
It’s hard to pin down the exact moment it all started to fall apart, but most Spurs fans look no further than the afternoon against West Ham in mid-October. It was when they saw a 3-0 lead with eight minutes remaining in regulation to ruin a 3-3 draw, with Sánchez’s own goal for 3-2 as the low point in a poor individual performance.
Before that, the 24-year-old had felt like one of José Mourinho’s first-choice center-backs. The manager had chosen him for most of his games last season, while this time Sánchez had started six of the club’s eight games in all competitions, although there were some wobbles. Now he was mired in the deepest of frosts, relying only on playing in the Europa League group stage matches against Lask, Antwerp and Ludogorets.
In the Premier League there would be nine games in which he did not play and, in eight of them, he did not become part of the squad of the day. When he was on the Europa League pitch, it was sometimes uncomfortable to watch him, particularly at the away game in Lask in early December, although he was surely overtaken by his personal nightmare for Colombia in their 6-1 qualifying loss for the World Cup against Ecuador in mid-November. His confidence was in tatters.
Sánchez was nowhere to be found when the Spurs beat Arsenal 2-0 at home just after the trip to Austria to face Lask. That was the day that Harry Kane and Son Heung-min shone, Mourinho’s counterattack game plan worked flawlessly, as did his defense, and the club was able to belittle everyone else from the top of the table. .
Much has changed since then, with the Spurs falling before a resurgence in recent weeks, but one of the most moving stories has been the return of Sanchez. As Spurs prepare for Sunday’s derby against Arsenal at the Emirates, he has re-established himself at the heart of the defense, having started the previous six league games and nine of the 13 in total.
Listening to Sánchez as he explains the rebirth is to understand his professionalism, how he turned the attention inward to find the answers without recriminations. It also reveals a balance that is essential to prosper at the highest level.
“You can’t be disappointed when the team is good [as Spurs were for most of his absence] and you’re not involved at all, even if you normally have been and things have changed, ”says Sánchez. “You have to go ahead and wait for your chance, which is what happened to me.
“If you are not in a position to be in the starting eleven, you don’t expect to be. You only have to deal with it if your teammates are doing better than you and getting more minutes than you. You have to accept it. The only way to change it is to start with yourself. “
Sánchez was used to working with Mauricio Pochettino, the coach who oversaw his £ 42m signing from Ajax. The Argentine was tactile, emotional, obsessed with the flow of positive energy and it is surely fair to say that his successor has a different approach: more dispassionate and, at times, confrontational. Mourinho has publicly lamented the individual defensive mistakes of his players, while not holding back during internal investigations.
“You have to be humble when someone does it, not blame yourself, but having to say something is not correct or correct,” says Sánchez. “You have to be humble and accept it. It’s not trying to throw it away and forget about it. You keep going because if someone is telling you something like that; it’s because they know you can do so much better.
“The coach is very direct and wants the best for the team. He is very honest with everyone, from who is involved and doing well to who is not in the best shape or needs to work.
“At the moment you have to be perfect in all positions, with or without possession with movements. We all have to have that mindset. You feel that your colleagues pressure you. If it’s not the manager, it’s them. “
Sánchez’s game relies on intensity and toughness, not to mention pace, which often gets him out of trouble. It is effective in hand-to-hand, both in the air and on the ground, although it needs to improve its distribution and eradicate lapses. On the other hand, defenders will always make mistakes. The hope now is that he can build on his career on the team.
“You have to face your rival forwards game by game,” says Sánchez. “You can’t start, say, a game, then stop for two or three and then start over. Even if you accept this, your confidence will drop a bit. I have participated in some derbies with Arsenal and they are huge. This is for pride and to keep fighting for the top four. There are no fans but there is still a lot of pressure ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism