Ryan Mason will face a daunting task on his return to fitness as he looks to regain his place in Spurs’ starting XI.
Mason is currently out with an ankle injury, and while it is unclear when he will be able to return to action, coming back from the sidelines could well be the least of his worries.
Given that the 24-year-old hasn’t featured since November, a number of competitors have emerged in his position. Mauricio Pochettino is known to reward those who have been in good form, and so Spurs’ recent run could count against Mason as he has had no chance to contribute to it.
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That is not to say that Mason is incapable of improving Pochettino’s side. In fact, his defensive qualities are invaluable, and could come in particularly handy in the coming weeks.
Jan Vertonghen’s long-term knee injury, suffered in the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace, could mean that Eric Dier drops back into central defence, with Mason taking his place. However, it is equally possible that Pochettino opts for Kevin Wimmer at the back, leaving Dier in Mason’s place.
Onerous challenge ahead
Mason could therefore find himself in a similar situation to recently-departed former team mate Andros Townsend, who has left for Newcastle after 16 years at the club. Mason is in his 17th, and while he admittedly has an advantage over Townsend in that he is still in Pochettino’s favour, he likewise faces a challenge to prove himself worthy of games in the first team.
Another factor in Mason’s court is that he impressed in the early part of the season, even when Spurs were not playing particularly good football. Since then, though, Tom Carroll has been in and out of the side, though Mason is much stronger when it comes to keeping possession. Mousa Dembele could therefore be his greatest rival, as Dele Alli offers something different altogether.
Regardless of the competition, Spurs cannot afford to lose Mason, and may well have to fight off interest in the summer from clubs who may sense his position. He has a whole host of clubs where he has enjoyed loan spells to choose from, though that would almost certainly mean dropping down a division.
Mason ultimately does have a place in the Spurs midfield, as he is so good on the ball. When he returns, it will surely be a matter of time before he is given another chance to re-earn his place.
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