Squad rotation is a concept that we’re going to have to get used to under Andre Villas-Boas, especially in the centre of defence. The old Redknapp plan of playing the same starting eleven the entire season is a thing of the past; instead, we should expect bigger roles for lesser known players, regular chances handed to members of the development squad and responsibility shifted from the shoulders of the few to the many. One selection ‘headache’ that has been heavily discussed of late is the question of who we think our best possible centre-back partnership is. In my opinion, it’s a question that just isn’t worth asking anymore.
We currently have seven central defenders on our books, and each one should be expecting to play some part this season. However, the most likely outcome is that most playing time will be shared out between Dawson, Kaboul, Vertonghen and Caulker, with Gallas as the main cover in probably his last season for the club. With us challenging on four different competitive fronts again this season, the jury is still out on whether Bassong is to be sold, loaned or kept in the squad as cover, and the same can be said of the elusive Khumalo. Detailed below then, is how I expect our defence to be prepared to play In the coming season, and which partnerships may be created in order to compliment each other, and best diffuse the oppositions attacks.
The ideal balance in a defensive pair is the ability of one to play the ball, and other to get their hands dirty. However with these two, you have a partnership where each of them can do both to great effect. Younes Kaboul emerged as our best defender last season, and alongside new signing Jan Vertonghen should be expecting to play in the bigger games this season. One left footed, the other right, given the right amount of playing time together they could prove to be one of the most effective partnerships in the league, and both players attacking natures plays straight in to the hands of our new ‘high line’ defence.
Master and apprentice, Michael Dawson is a player loved at Tottenham, but injury has seen him unluckily fall down the pecking order. In the same manor that Ledley King took Dawson under his wing when he first joined the club and taught him the art of defending, it’s now his turn to do the same for young Steven Caulker. Coming away from fantastic displays at both Swansea last season and Team GB in this summer’s Olympics, Caulker is quite rightly targeting a regular place in the Tottenham first team. I expect these two to be playing the more routine premier league games this season, and possibly have turns in the Europa league too.
The most likely outcome is that most playing time will be shared out between Dawson, Kaboul, Vertonghen and Caulker, with Gallas as the main cover.
Billy will be the main source of cover for me this year as has looked well off the pace at times in preseason and isn’t getting any younger. He can still do job in the slower paced European ties but I wouldn’t feel too comfortable seeing him play in any top premier league fixtures anymore. He appears to be losing pace by the day and his tendency to go on fruitless marauding runs will cause chaos in a high lined defence.
Bassong + Khumalo
Deadwood. Neither have proved to have been great purchases as time has gone on, Khumalo has struggled wherever he has gone on loan (and has gone again for this season) and Bassong’s good start to his Tottenham career has been undone by a string of horrible performances and a poor loan display at Wolves. Both are replaceable in my books; it’s about time we cut our losses and stopped paying their wages.
To conclude then, I don’t think the centre of our defence is an area in which we should be in any rush to improve. The main lesson to be learnt from preseason is that the phrase “best possible” is a thing of the past. Of course we’ll have a preference as to who’ll we’ll play in the higher class games, but who says the points we could gain in those fixtures are any more important than games against lesser opposition? Reliance will be spread much more evenly, each player will have to pull their own fair share of the weight and Andre Villas-Boas will have in time made sure that Tottenham make the transition from having a good team, to having a great squad.