Back in January, Antonio Conte demanded Tottenham signed a wing-back. At the turn of the year, Spurs had three players who could operate in the role on the books - Emerson Royal, Matt Doherty and Djed Spence. By the time the January window closed, the latter pair had departed, Doherty moving to Atletico Madrid after his contract was terminated and Spence joining Rennes on loan. Pedro Porro arrived as a specialist in the role, and quickly became a mainstay in the XI.
However, in a topsy turvy second half of the campaign that saw three managers take over the Tottenham reins, Porro was never really given a chance to properly showcase his talent. Yes, the Spaniard ended the season with three goals and three assists, both of which ranked joint-fifth for the north London side, yet there was a general consensus among supporters that there was more to come from the Sporting CP star.
The issue was that Porro was widely viewed as a wing-back. He'd honed his talent in the position for Sporting CP and was signed with the view of playing in the role at Spurs. So when Ange Postecoglou took over earlier in the year, some were concerned that Porro's gametime may be limited, that is of course unless the Australian sought to use the Spain international as a winger rather than a right-back.
Having spent big to make his move permanent over the summer, though, Spurs were keen to see a return on their hefty investment in Porro, and that meant either pushing the player upfield, or redevloping his game to operate at right-back in a Postecoglou system. There must also have been the temptation to have Porro operate as backup to Emerson Royal, the Brazilian more defensively diligent. Emerson netted in the opening weekend 2-2 draw at Brentford, too, which suggested he'd keep his place in the XI.
For the 2-0 win over Manchester United the following week, though, Porro displaced Emerson in the team, and the former hasn't relinquished his spot since. That he has excelled from right-back is testament to both his willingness to learn and Postecoglou's coaching. One of the criticisms of Porro was a lack of defensive awareness, and thus would struggle in a four-man backline under Postcoglou. While his biggest strength is his ability to provide an additional attacking outlet from deeper, there were reservations over whether he could play his part in protecting the Spurs goal.
In the opening games of the campaign, though, Porro has silenced the doubters. Only Yves Bissouma (3.5) and Destiny Udogie (3.3) are making more tackles per game than Porro (2.6) of Tottenham players in the Premier League this season. There are rough edges to the defensive side of the latter's game that need smoothing out, but there has been a marked improvement in his work off the ball.
🔥 Highest rated right-backs in the Premier League this season:— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 26, 2023
🥇 Kieran Trippier - 7.54
🥈 Pedro Porro - 7.08
🥉 Kyle Walker - 6.93 pic.twitter.com/im6lB5M1Vg
In addition, the development off the ball hasn't impacted his work in possession. Granted, Porro has just one assist to his name this season, but it's not for want of trying with an average of 1.4 key passes per game ranking fifth for the north London side. This though perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise. Postecoglou does, after all, have his full-backs push upfield to retain midfield superiority when James Maddison and Pape Matar Sarr get forward, so it's no wonder Bissouma, Udogie and Porro all rank in the top three for tackles per game, with the latter also free to support the offensive on his side of the pitch. The majority share of Tottenham's attacks do come down the right flank (37%) so Porro's offensive output is still being maximised.
Yet it's the composure both on and off the ball coupled with the defensive refinements that have added another weapon to Porro's arsenal and Spurs are really reaping the rewards. This was evidenced best in Sunday's 2-2 draw with Arsenal, where he was pegged back more by the Gunners offensive, but handled their attack well, making five tackles; only once has he made more in a match with full coverage on WhoScored.com.
When you consider the bulk of Arsenal's attacks came down their left (43%) over the weekend, it's evidence of Porro's much improved defensive work. Mikel Arteta's side were unable to make headway down their left despite chancing their luck time and time again, which speaks volumes of Porro's fine defensive showing. Getting forward, he's able to mix up his approach play to either remain more central if required, or pull to the flank to offer another outlet for the centre-backs and the midfield.
There is versatility and, importantly, unpredictability to Porro's, and Spurs' attack play, and this has seen opinions on the 24-year-old quickly change. Either way, he has been one of the surprise performers for Spurs this season and he deserves credit for altering his game accordingly to seamlessly fit Ange's system. Porro is, after all, a key reason behind the success of the inverted full-back for Postecoglou's side.