Davinson Sanchez puts his resurgence at the heart of Tottenham’s defence down to hard work and humility.
The Colombian, Spurs’s record signing when he joined from Ajax for £42million in 2017, found himself down the pecking order at the start of the season, with boss Jose Mourinho preferring to pair Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld in central defence.
But after impressing in the Europa League in November and December, Sanchez earned himself a good run of games in the top flight, especially since January.
And his contribution, particularly in the past three games, all of which Spurs won, means the starting berth he worked so hard to regain is now his to lose.
Gareth Bale, Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele have all found themselves in a similar boat to Sanchez, but all have knuckled down and, to varying degrees, have all been rewarded by their boss.
“It is not just here at Tottenham, it is like that since I started,” said Sanchez.
“If you are not in the condition to be in the starting XI, to be involved, you don’t expect to be.
“In sport, you need that, and at the moment you have to be perfect in every position, with possession or without possession, with your movements.
“We all have to be in that aspect.
“You hear your team-mates, ‘I’m going to push you’.
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“If it’s not the manager it is your team-mates who are going better than you or getting more minutes than you.
“You have to deal with that and be humble. If it happens to you, you accept that the only way to change that is starting from your yourself.”
Humility is, according to Sanchez, the necessary trait when the flak is flying from Mourinho.
The Spurs boss has been heavily critical of players making individual errors in the past couple of months and the defender, still only 24, knows he has been at fault a couple of times.
Asked if the public criticism is hard to take, Sanchez added: “I can talk about myself.
“I’ve been a professional for five or six years and my position has a lot of responsibility.
“I’m just dealing with that from the start.
“You have to be humble when somebody is, not blaming you, but having to say something isn’t right or correct.
“You need to accept it, be humble and take it.
“Of course, it’s not trying to put that in the bin and forget it.
“You keep going because if someone is saying something like that to you, it’s because they know you can do a lot better than that.
“The manager is very direct and wants the best for the team.
“No manager wants to get bad results. He is very honest with everybody, from who is doing well and involved, to who is not in the best form or needs to work.
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“We are here to perform and to get results and of course, as a professional, you can have good periods or not as good as you expect and bad periods can come, too.”
For Sanchez, today’s clash with Arsenal will be his sixth North London derby, with Spurs winning two and drawing two of them.
He knows there won’t be the usual febrile atmosphere but, with both still playing for a European finish, there is still plenty at stake.
Sanchez said: “You know, this time, the pandemic has changed a lot of things.
“It has been tough for everybody and it will be different.
“This is my fourth season, so I’ve been involved in a few of them and it is massive.
“It is a game that right now is not just for three points, it’s a game for pride and to keep fighting for the top four.
It’s a big, big competition. There are no fans but there’s still a lot of pressure, being there and getting a good result in their stadium.”