During Tottenham Hotspur's UEFA Europa League win over Sheriff Tiraspol, Andre Villas-Boas relegated an in-form Vlad Chiriches to the bench to keep Jan Vertonghen, frustrated with his fill-in left-back role in recent games, happy.
By not naming Michael Dawson on the bench, Villas-Boas made it clear his captain, whose leadership at the back has contributed to Spurs having the Premier League's second-best defensive record, was being rested.
That was the easy part.
What Villas-Boas did next has trapped him in a no-win situation going into the next Premier League game against Newcastle United.
Kyle Naughton was available to start at left-back; therefore, Vertonghen expected Villas-Boas to stay true to his word.
"He knows that position [centre-back] is waiting for him whenever we have options at left-back," Villas-Boas said, via ITV. "He has my word."
Villas-Boas wanted to continue easing Younes Kaboul back to full-match fitness, so there was only one centre-back position left for either Chiriches or Vertonghen.
Vertonghen, the club's best defender, was a shoo-in to start once Naughton was passed fit for the Sheriff game.
Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Chiriches, who has played great football despite not having a pre-season with Spurs.
Do you know how many goals Tottenham have conceded in Chiriches' five games as a starter? Zero.
He was coming off a sterling performance in the 0-0 draw against Everton, a game where he and Michael Dawson combined to pacify Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku, who failed to register a single shot on goal.
PASS MAP: V.Chiriches stats today. 21/23 passes (91%), 1/1 tackles (100%), 1/1 headed duels (100%), 4 interceptions. pic.twitter.com/BnfbhdIirt— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 3, 2013
Vertonghen, starting at left-back, stopped his compatriot Kevin Mirallas, who led the Toffees in league assists (four) going into the game.
"I have had lots of conversations with Jan regarding this situation [playing left-back]," Villas-Boas said, via The Independent. "I know he doesn't like it, but it's no big deal. It's a decision I have to make for the best of the team."
Tottenham face Newcastle this weekend, and Villas-Boas will have a dilemma at centre-back: Vertonghen or Chiriches to partner Dawson.
- OPTION A: Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Vertonghen
- OPTION B: Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton
Option A is clearly the stronger back four simply because of Vertonghen being a superior left-back to Naughton, who is a right-back, not a left-back.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew played a 4-4-2 in the 2-0 win over Chelsea with Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko providing width on the right flank.
Can Naughton, who isn't suited to play at left-back, deal with the overlapping runs of Debuchy and the athleticism of Sissoko?
How has Kyle Naughton missed out on the Ballon D'or shortlist again!! #FifaConspiracy— Tim Grigg (@timgrigg76) October 29, 2013
"For the best of the team," Vertonghen should start over Naughton at left-back against Newcastle.
Vertonghen needs to bite his tongue when filling in at left-back until Danny Rose returns from injury.
If Villas-Boas signs a left-back in the January transfer window to provide cover, Vertonghen's days of being a left-back at Spurs will be over.
In the words of Villas-Boas, via Chris Richards at The Mirror: "He [Vertonghen] is one of the greatest central defenders I have worked with."
Chiriches has made an outstanding first impression at Tottenham, but once Vertonghen returns to centre-back, Chiriches will have to get used to warming the bench.
He should take solace knowing Vertonghen was once below Oleguer, Robbie Wielaert and Thomas Vermaelen in the Ajax centre-back pecking order.
Chiriches' time will come.