Tanganga: "Games have been testing, physically and mentally"
Mon 10 February 2020, 14:52|Tottenham Hotspur
The winter break has given everyone a chance to step back and take stock – and for Japhet Tanganga, that’s meant reflecting on a life-changing month in which he’s emerged onto the first team stage and looked like he’s been there for years.
A skilful, athletic and powerful defender, the 20-year-old Academy product was thrust into the side by Jose Mourinho for his Premier League debut against champions-elect Liverpool on 11 January and has started all but one of our matches in all competitions since, producing some outstanding performances across the back line.
A centre-half by trade, Japhet played a handful of games at right-back for our Under-18 and Under-23 sides between 2015 and 2017 but has excelled in all defensive positions – notably in a previously unfamiliar left-back berth – since his introduction to the senior set-up.
Last week’s FA Cup replay win at home to Southampton even saw him complete the set in the space of one match, starting on the right side of a back three, shifting into the middle alongside Toby Alderweireld when Jan Vertonghen was substituted and finishing the game at left-back after Ryan Sessegnon was replaced by Davinson Sanchez.
“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.”
Is first team football any different to what Japhet imagined it to be?
“At times it’s been different to what I expected because I thought maybe if I was playing on this stage I would have got nervous but I feel like I’ve been really calm,” the youngster revealed. “I haven’t been fazed by the opponents or the circumstances, I feel like I know what my game is, I know why the manager has put me in, he’s shown trust in me and he knows what I’m capable of doing so it’s just about sticking to my game. I feel like all the work I’ve been doing, it’s all for this moment right now and it’s just been great.”
We return to Premier League action away to Aston Villa on Sunday and Japhet has one clear target for the remainder of the season: “To continue working.”
He added: “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.”