In a miserable season that Tottenham Hotspur are desperate to finish, there is stiff competition for the lowest point.
But it was Davinson Sanchez’s defeat that was decimated by his fans when he was substituted after coming on as a substitute just 23 minutes earlier in Tottenham’s 3-2 home defeat by Bournemouth felt the saddest.
We all have different thresholds for when we consider it acceptable to boo a player from the team you support.
But this felt too harsh and counterproductive.
Yes, Sanchez made mistakes as Tottenham’s 1-0 lead turned into 2-1. Yes, fans pay a lot of money for their tickets and have every right to vent their frustration. Yes, shaky performances from Sanchez have become quite frequent.
But this wasn’t a player who didn’t try, and so one could argue that he deserved some of the fans’ displeasure. He was an undercooked individual (he hasn’t started a Premier League game since October) in a role in which he never seemed comfortable, and clearly lacked confidence. For these reasons, some fans have blamed the way things have played out on acting manager Christian Stellini for his decision to put in an obviously struggling Sanchez.
In any event, he began being booed before being substituted, with his last few touches all met with jeers from the home crowd. He looked distraught as he left the field. Yes, he’s paid handsomely, so it’s understandable that sympathy from many will be in short supply, but regardless of whether you think this sort of thing is worth it, it’s hard to prove it will benefit Sanchez or the team. This is definitely the main priority for backers.
Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris has claimed he heard Sanchez booed when he entered the pitch in the 35th minute after injured substitute Clement Lenglet. Three minutes later, Sánchez was unable to pass a pass to Pedro Borrow, who was stripped and Bournemouth equalised. Sanchez wasn’t alone in receiving criticism – Boro deactivated his social media accounts following a wave of post-match abuse – but Matias Vina’s goal continued his unfortunate run, now standing at third, as Spurs conceded at least once during their first 15 minutes. Who Sanchez enters the field.
Perhaps the notion that Sanchez is an accident waiting to happen is why the crowd were so quick to turn on him after the goal although Boro was wrong.
“I feel bad for Davinson,” Lloris told beIN Sports after the match. “He’s a teammate, he’s a friend and he’s been fighting for the club for many years now, which is sad. The story is sad for the club, the fans and the player. It’s something you don’t want to see in football.”
Regarding his claim that Sanchez was booed when he entered the field, Lloris added, “I’ve never seen that in my career.”
Unfortunately for Loris, that’s not even true. More recently in January, Emerson Royal was booed when he came on as a substitute against Aston Villa, having been taunted two months earlier in the home win against Leeds. In different circumstances and with anger directed more at former coach Antonio Conte, Sanchez himself was not very welcome when he came on as a late substitute for goal-chasing Tottenham against AC Milan in March.
Royal’s credit goes well into that period when he was enemy number one to the crowd, but your fans turning on you is a very difficult thing for any player to go through – and just before he was substituted, Sanchez made tackles that suggested he was struggling to focus. Across north London, Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboue never recovered from being booed and dropped as a substitute in a 2008 home game against Wigan Athletic. “When you’re a footballer and your fans boo you, it’s very bad, and your self-confidence goes up,” Eboue later said. “After that happened I said to (then Arsenal manager) Arsene Wenger, ‘I don’t want to go training anymore because I feel bad’. I went home and I was crying.”
We’ll see how Sanchez responds in the next few weeks, with Stellini then saying he will continue to play the defender if Spurs need him (which they may count on the recovery of Lenglet and Ben Davies, although Stellini may decide Japhet Tanganga is a safer option). In his post-match press conference, Stellini said he had not yet had a chance to speak to Sanchez, but stood by by bringing him in and then removing him given Tottenham were trailing 2-1 after 58 minutes (having just conceded when Sanchez inadvertently pushed the ball into the path of Dominic Solanke).
But whatever happens, the entire episode feels like a symptom of a club’s desperate attempt to make sense of a season that has completely fallen apart. It is certain that Tottenham will not play Champions League football next year after this miserable defeat, and although Sanchez was partly responsible for this latest embarrassment, there are many bigger reasons why Spurs find themselves in the mess.
The “sad story” Loris spoke of has been going on for a while – and this is just the last chapter. Sanchez enjoyed some good moments at Tottenham, his first season in 2017-18 in particular when he formed a solid partnership with Jan Vertonghen. But given his contract expires in 14 months and he could be sold this summer, what happened on Saturday is likely the best way to remember his time at the club.
It’s a shame and although he must take responsibility for his mistakes against Bournemouth and in other matches, it was hard not to feel sympathy for Sanchez on Saturday.
The latest bit of collateral damage in a club groaning and desperately trying to understand how it happened.
(Top photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)
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