Matt Doherty has acknowledged the difficulty he has had making his mark this season at Tottenham but believes he is beginning to feel more settled, as he adapts to the different role expected of him and forges a better understanding with some of the players around him, most obviously Gareth Bale.
The Dubliner has featured in just over half of the London club’s league games since arriving from Wolves in the summer when the expectation was that he would be a regular. Some problems settling into the role Jose Mourinho wanted him to perform in the team, though, combined with an individual error or two has left him facing a fair bit of criticism, at least some of which, he admits, has been deserved.
“I love being here,” he says in an interview for the club’s matchday programme at the weekend. “I have really enjoyed my time here but, personally, it’s not been a great season for me so far. It’s been a period of adjustment for me but obviously, when playing, I’ve made some mistakes which isn’t the normal thing for me to do.
“I usually pride myself on being a consistent player and not making the errors that I have made this season. I just have to put even more focus and concentration in for 90 minutes and try to be mistake-free, while also expressing myself in the offensive parts of the field.
“Obviously, it’s not the same when you play at wing-back,” he continues. “You don’t have to defend as much. You don’t get exposed in defensive situations as much as when playing as a full-back, so it is definitely different, but it is not something that it is totally alien to me. I have played there an awful lot - in the national team, I play in a back four.
“I haven’t been playing that well so far but, hopefully, I can turn that around. My form has not been the best, so it has been a tough start but, obviously, I want to turn it around as soon as possible.
“There are things I need to improve on and things I need to adapt to. It’s been an indifferent start for me personally but, there is a lot more to come. I’m starting to turn the corner, I think. I’m starting to feel good again, to see things a lot quicker.
“I feel like, lately, I’ve started to go around that bend, the form is kind of improving and, when that happens, things start to come off for you and that obviously builds your confidence. So, going into games, I feel really good with where I am.”
Doherty provided an assist for Gareth Bale in the 4-1 win over Crystal Palace and believes he is establishing a good rapport with the Welsh international.
“I feel we do link up well,” he says. “He goes inside, gets in the pockets, obviously, opposition players are scared to go near him because he is so good on the ball, and I’ll do the running up the line if I have to. I know if I make a run, he has the vision and the weight of pass to slide me in - and it’ll be perfect. We just seem to have an understanding.”
The Dubliner’s recent improvement will be welcome to Stephen Kenny who has not had too much to cheer about in recent weeks. The Ireland manager is due to name his squad for the games against Serbia, Luxembourg and Qatar next week but might well have been inclined to have restored Seamus Coleman to his starting line-up for the team’s most important games based on club form over the course of the season so far.
The Everton right back missed Monday’s defeat by Chelsea due to injury but is reckoned to be in contention to return for Saturday’s game against Burnley.