Juan Foyth: 'Every single action helps you to develop'
Wed 19 June 2019, 12:36|Tottenham Hotspur
Juan Foyth holds himself responsible for the way his 2018/19 season started and ended, but believes his rollercoaster year has only made him stronger.
Currently away at his first major international tournament with Argentina, the Copa America, our 21-year-old centre-back experienced almost everything possible on a football pitch over the course of last term.
Competition debuts, a sensational winning goal, an injury, penalties, a red card, a new position and a first international call-up… the list of ups and downs goes on and on.
Looking back on it all, the young defender is refreshingly honest in his assessment of how the season – his second in our colours – panned out for him. But, crucially, he thinks he’s improved as a result.
“The beginning of the season was hard for me,” said the former Estudiantes prospect, recalling how a thigh injury sustained in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Brentford last July forced him to miss the start of our Premier League campaign. “Of course, it’s always hard with your first full pre-season here and I think maybe in the summer I hadn’t prepared like I should prepare. When I came here I realised that pre-season is different in Europe and I started with an injury through my own fault. Thankfully, I started to recover, to do my best, I then played against West Ham and everything changed. It was very good after this.”
The match Juan is referring to will surely live long in the memory. In the first of his overall 17 appearances last season, Juan was superb as we dumped the Hammers out of the Carabao Cup with a fully-deserved 3-1 win at the London Stadium in October. Three nights later, the young Argentine was thrust in for his first Premier League start at Wolves.
“It was a bit of a surprise, but I think in the West Ham game I played well so maybe I deserved it,” said Juan.
Typical of his storied season, though, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Three goals up in a rare Saturday night game at Molineux, he conceded two penalties in 11 second-half minutes as Wolves staged a late fightback. Thankfully, we held on to win 3-2.
“For me, the second one wasn’t a penalty but of course you always learn from mistakes and you try to take the positive part,” he said. “Every single action helps you to develop and to improve so I tried to learn from those mistakes.”
Learn is exactly what he did and, the following week, he was the hero at the other end as he bagged his first ever Spurs goal to secure a valuable 1-0 win at Crystal Palace. His international debut followed swiftly on while he continued to prove a valuable defensive option to Mauricio Pochettino as our battled continued on several fronts. In the latter weeks of the season, Juan even produced some impressive performances in an unfamiliar right-back role.
Unfortunately, his campaign fizzled out with another low point, as a red card mere moments after coming on as a half-time substitute at Bournemouth on 4 May, when we were already down to 10 men, left him feeling deflated and guilty of letting his team-mates down.
“In that moment I was really, really sad, really frustrated,” said the defender, who will miss our opening two Premier League games of 2019/20 against Aston Villa and Manchester City through the resulting suspension. “In came in to try to help the team and in two minutes, I was outside the pitch, sitting in the dressing room and watching the game, looking at my team-mates run and make such a big effort. It’s hard in that situation, you feel so bad, but when the game finished, I tried to change my mindset, to think it was just a single action and that I can keep being the same player, not to judge myself on one action whether I’m bad or I’m good.
“I think these situations mustn’t define you as a player. If you have a bad game, it doesn’t mean you are a bad player or if you have a good game, it doesn’t mean you are the best. You keep being the same player and always the team of staff, the manager and the team-mates help a lot – when you make a mistake they are always behind you and trying to give you confidence. This really helps.”
So does Juan feel, after all the water under the bridge in 2018/19, that he’s a better player now than he was 12 months ago? “Every player has to improve and try to be a better player so I hope I’m a better player today – but I’m not the one who has to say that,” he said. “I think it was a good season, I played more games through the year against good rivals and I enjoyed the games. I think I can do a lot better, I made some mistakes that I cannot make again but I think in general the season was positive.”