ST. MARY'S STADIUM, SOUTHAMPTON — It's been an exceptionally frustrating season for Ben Davies, and no match encapsulates those woes better than Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 draw to Southampton on Saturday at St. Mary's Stadium. He left the pitch on a stretcher, inhaling oxygen to numb the pain of a dislocated shoulder injury, after having a direct hand in two Saints goals to put his side on the back foot.
Chances to start in the Lilywhites' XI are rare for him, and when he's given the nod he does his best to make the most of them. He got the call in lieu of first choice Danny Rose this weekend but had another typically difficult afternoon.
Signed for just north of £10 million last summer by new manager Mauricio Pochettino, much was expected of the former Swansea City man. He stood a seasoned Premier League left-back despite his tender age, with more than 70 appearances for the Welsh club under a mix of Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk.
First and foremost, he was exceptionally comfortable on the ball. Having cut his teeth in the Welsh coaching system, he learned to play possession football and wriggle out of the tight spaces full-backs often find themselves in. He could also defend—a genuine luxury in 2015 among full-backs—and attack with equal skill.
For £10 million, then, and given he fits the category of "home grown" thanks to his Welsh nationality, he was a snip. Rose had endured an erratic, difficult 2013-14 campaign in which he looked nothing like the player who had dazzled on loan at Sunderland the year before, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto was finally being ousted from the setup.
But settling issues allowed Rose to get the leg up on the competition from the very start of the season, with Davies—alongside the likes of Paulinho, Benjamin Stambouli and Harry Kane—were restricted to Europa League football in the first few months. The Welshman is yet to show anywhere close to his best football even now, whereas Rose is going from strength to strength and is arguably the club's most improved player.
The afternoon he endured at St. Mary's Stadium on Saturday is certainly one to forget. His dallying on the ball in the box in the first half allowed Graziano Pelle to steal in and poke home in near-comical fashion, and the Italian's second goal—a thumping header—came via a Shane Long cross from his side.
Between those two incidents, he managed to pick up a yellow card for scything down his marker on the stretch, and later, fell awkwardly in a challenge and left the pitch on a stretcher with what is believed to be a shoulder injury.
"Ben [Davies] is OK now. He suffered a dislocation of the shoulder but he is much better now," Mauricio Pochettino told journalists after the game. "We need to assess him in the next few days. Not a longer [-term] problem."
"We conceded two goals from two mistakes—we are a little bit disappointed."
Some seasons simply need to be scratched, and it's mightily obvious this one hasn't gone to plan. Davies is a good player—arguably better than Rose in several aspects of the game—but the campaign has been plagued by disappointment, injuries and wretched luck.
The Welshman's rotten day on Saturday stands a microcosm of an unfortunate season. Recover, recuperate and try again starting August.