The 2015/16 Spurs Academy intake was an incredibly talented one at the club. It included the likes of Marcus Edwards, Samuel Shashoua, Brandon Austin, Alfie Whiteman, Jack Roles and of course Japhet Tanganga (22). A defender who is more than capable of playing anywhere at the back, the Hackney born footballer who joined Spurs at a young age has risen up through the Academy ranks at the club to so far make 24 competitive first team appearances for them. Tanganga has been at Spurs for many years and he even made his competitive debut for Spurs’ Under 18 side as a schoolboy footballer way back in the November of 2014. The Londoner signed scholarship forms with Spurs for the start of the following 2015/16 season, a season that he would do really well in, and he also made his competitive debut for the then Under 21 side during the same season. Japhet made 17 Under 18 Premier League appearances during the following 2016/17 season, plus additional appearances in the UEFA Youth League, FA Youth Cup and Premier League 2, in what was a very good season of development for the defender. Japhet was also a part of the Spurs Under 18 side that won the IMG Cup in Florida that season.
After having made the permanent step up to the Under 23 side for the beginning of the 2017/18 season, Tanganga became a regular for Wayne Burnett’s side, and he would make 15 Premier League 2 appearances that season, in what was another good season for his development. The following 2018/19 season saw the player who has been capped all the way up to Under 21 level by England, again becoming a mainstay of the Spurs Under 23 side. Making over 20 competitive appearances for them that season, Japhet also made his first team debut for Spurs as a substitute in a pre-season friendly against Girona FC in Spain. I thought that the defender was very good for Wayne Burnett’s Spurs Under 23 side during the 2018/19 season, and the player who would often captain the side during the second half of the season really showed his leadership qualities, in my opinion. It was to be the 2019/20 season that Japhet was given his first chance with the Spurs first team in competitive football. He performed really well in pre-season with the Spurs first team before being given his competitive first team debut in a Carabao Cup third round tie against Colchester United in the September of 2019, when Mauricio Pochettino was still the Spurs boss.
It was when José Mourinho took over as Spurs boss during that season that Japhet was given his Premier League debut, and further appearances would follow. That game came in a home 1-0 Premier League defeat to Liverpool in the January of 2020, but the young defender stood out in that game for his defensive performance. Since that game the 22 year old has made 22 further competitive appearances for Spurs, but he would have surely made a lot more appearances were it not for troubles with injury. At Academy level for Spurs Japhet was in my opinion very, very good, but also very consistent as well. He did have injuries at Under 18 and 23 level, but he always came back into the team stronger than ever. At Academy level Japhet was at times unplayable. Great at making last ditch blocks from central defence, so commanding inside his penalty area and also showing very good reactions in defensive situations. As a centre-half Japhet is really good in the air even though he is not the tallest, but he is great at getting up off the ground. In addition to that he is also very quick and he has a good positional sense, which helps him to cut out forward passes, something which he has always been very good at.
A vocal member of the defence at Academy level for Spurs, and one who was always very good at organising the defence. One such example of this came in a Premier League South fixture against Arsenal back in the autumn of 2016, at Hotspur Way. On that particular day Tanganga was immense when playing on the right hand side of central defence. He organised the defence superbly well, made some excellent blocks, challenges and defensive interventions against the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Donyell Malen. However, most importantly of all he kept Spurs in the game up until he was forced to come off because he had picked up an injury, and after that the Spurs defence just couldn’t deal with Arsenal, and they ended up losing the match 4-2. Since playing at right-back (Japhet also used to play at left-back for Spurs at Academy level on occasions) for Spurs’ first team Japhet has shown his fine ability to go forward with the ball. This is actually something that he used to often do when playing in central defence for Spurs at Academy level. He would often go on surging forward runs from out of defence with the ball, and even take on opponents with it on occasions. Another thing which he often showed at Under 18 and Under 23 level for Spurs was his ability to make a long Michael Dawson-esque pass from defence. Even if Japhet does play at right-back for Nuno Espírito Santo’s side then it is still something that I am sure Spurs fans will see in the future.
Another thing which I personally wouldn’t be surprised at all to see in the future is for Japhet to play as a number four in midfield. Although to my knowledge he never played in that position for Spurs at Academy level, I personally feel that the versatile defender would be more than capable of playing in that role. Last Sunday Spurs faced Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Japhet Tanganga completing 87 minutes of the match at right-back, before appearing to pick up an injury and being replaced by Serge Aurier. However, Japhet was excellent throughout the match and he defended really well in my opinion, and got up and down the right flank really effectively. He also did very well to set up Son, for his goal late in the game. It was an excellent all round performance from Japhet, but it was just such a shame that he picked up an injury late on in the game. If he can hopefully stay clear of injuries then I have no doubts that the very talented and promising young defender will get a really good number of games for Spurs’ first team this season, with most of those coming at right-back I would imagine. I would like to wish Japhet all the very best of luck for the 2021/22 season.