A couple of months ago, I checked in on DeAndre Yedlin at Sunderland. Things were going well for the Spurs loanee: he’d had a run of games under Sam Allardyce, and heading back from international duty with the USA he appeared to be edging ahead of Billy Jones to be first-choice right-back.
Sadly, things have gone downhill. Since mid November, Yedlin has started only three times in the league, and in the last of those starts against Watford he played just 19 minutes before Big Sam hauled him off in a tactical rejig. He started against Arsenal in the FA Cup, but otherwise managed just 18 minutes of action over the Christmas period. The prospect of an early termination of his loan was even mooted in the local press as Big Sam reshuffles his squad in a bid to escape the drop.
I was keen to find out more, and the opportunity presented itself when the good people of Salut! Sunderland asked me to do a Q&A before Spurs take on the Mackems on Saturday at White Hart Lane. Colin regretted this greatly once my pro-Newcastle leanings surfaced, but ran it nonetheless.
Sunderland regular Pete Sixsmith kindly agreed in return to answer my questions on Yedlin:
What are your initial impressions of DeAndre Yedlin?
He is a busy player who seems eager to learn and to impose himself. His (relatively) slight physique may hold him back as may his defensive deficiencies.
Yedlin started to get a run when Big Sam first came in, but is now out of the side. What went wrong?
When we went to 3-5-2, there was no place for him. Allardyce clearly prefers Billy Jones, who is a better defender.
What are his chances of featuring regularly for the rest of the season? Surely he can do more from right back than Billy Jones?
Jones is a plodder but he knows the Premier League – and Allardyce values that. Yedlin offers cover if either Jones or Van Aanholt are injured. If/when he gets a chance, it is up to him to take it
Do you think him having to leave for international duty has damaged his chances of establishing himself?
Not really. All clubs have players whizzing to the four corners of the earth (I know, it’s a sphere and spheres don’t have corners) so I don’t think that has had much impact on him.
Gut feeling — does Yedlin have what it takes to be a Premier League player, or should Spurs be looking to shift him back to Major League Soccer?
He isn’t good enough for Spurs – if Danny Rose can’t always get a game you must be strong at the back – but he could hack it at another Premier League club although I do think he is a bit lightweight. He learns well and his struggles at Sunderland could well be character building. I think he would do well in the Netherlands or in Germany.
So, in conclusion… it’s not too promising.
Yedlin’s situation would appear straightforward: If he can’t make it at a struggling Sunderland this season, he surely won’t make it at Spurs.
While Big Sam understandably is putting a focus on experience, Billy Jones is deeply average, or a “plodder” as Sixsmith puts it. If Yedlin can’t win a head-to-head against Jones, it is hard to see how he is going to challenge Kyle Walker or Kieran Trippier for a spot at Spurs. At £2.5 million, Yedlin was a cheap gamble — he is still a USA regular, and his value shouldn’t be too damaged if Spurs decide he isn’t going to make the cut.
I’d add: Yedlin is only 22, and there are 17 games left this season, so he has time to turn it around — I really hope he does. But this feels a sink-or-swim scenario for him at Sunderland, and right now he’s taking on water.