There is one significant change to the list of defenders available to Tottenham this season. Ledley King who has served Spurs so well for the past decade is no longer on that list. His troublesome knees have finally caused him to retire so Tottenham will have to look elsewhere for inspiration and leadership in the coming months. At present, two of the four defensive positions would appear to be settled but the central defenders are open to debate.
Tottenham Squad: Defenders:
Kyle Walker has fulfilled all the promise that he displayed in his early days with Sheffield United. Having signed for Spurs in the summer of 2009, Tottenham made use of the loan system to further Walker’s footballing experience, as he returned to Sheffield for the season and then in the Championship and Premier League with Queen’s Park Rangers and Aston Villa. Last season Walker was given his chance in the first team and quickly established himself as Tottenham’s first choice right back, leading to Vedran Corluka going out on loan in January and his subsequent transfer. So impressive was Walker with his pacy attacking exploits and quick recovery in defence that he made his England debut and was named the ‘Man of the Match’ for his performance against Sweden. He has made rapid progress in three years – on 15th November, 2008 he made his Football League debut while on loan at Northampton Town and three years later, to the day, he was playing for England at Wembley and but for injury would have been in the Euro 2012 squad.
He was voted the PFA ‘Young Player of the Year’. Already a firm favourite at White Hart Lane, his winning goal against Arsenal at the beginning of October further endeared him to the Tottenham faithful. Walker is as important to Tottenham as an attacking and creative threat on the right as he is as a defender and made the right back position his own with exciting performances through the year Walker is confident in his play and his ability, constantly looking to get forward to create opportunities for others which saw him involved with numerous goals last season. Defensively, he is still learning his trade but he is able to use his pace to get back and recover his position and retrieve the situation. He is developing a good understanding with Aaron Lennon on the right wing which has to be an important element of his game so that Tottenham get the best out of the winger. Walker is one of the first names on the team sheet each week and it is some time since Spurs have had such an exciting player on the right side of their defence.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto has become something of a ‘cult’ figure at Spurs with his differing hair styles, odd coloured boots and the drag back and turn to make room for himself in his defensive role. He made an uncertain start to his time at White Hart Lane after signing in 2006 but following a serious injury which kept him out for a lengthy period he returned to make the left back position his own. Originally, very much the quiet man of the team who never gave interviews, he has grown in stature as a player and has shown that he possesses strong views on football and life. He has developed a close affinity with Tottenham and the fans through his newspaper column, on Twitter and with his concern for the people in Tottenham during last summer’s riots. Assou-Ekotto and Gareth Bale have a good understanding on the left side of the team and he has an increasing inclination to get forward to strike on goal. Two of his three goals fall into the outstanding category – shots from distance against Liverpool and Everton.
Defensively, Assou-Ekotto is very confident under pressure, sometimes too cool and takes unnecessary risks when playing himself out of trouble. He can, on occasions, get caught out of position or ball watching and loses his man but he has made great progress from his early day with Spurs.
Kyle Naughton joined Tottenham with Walker from Sheffield United but has only made two competitive appearances for the club as a very late substitute in the Premier League in 2009 and against Arsenal in the Carling Cup in 2010. He has had lengthy periods on loan, impressing at Middlesbrough, Leicester City and last season with Norwich City in the Premier League. He would provide good cover at full-back but at 23 years of age, he may not be prepared to wait and accept a role as reserve to Walker and Assou-Ekotto so may look for a transfer away from Spurs with a number of Premier League clubs interested.
Danny Rose joined Spurs youth system as a left-sided midfield player from Leeds United but has been used as a left-back, covering for Assou-Ekotto. He was selected for the Team GB squad at the Olympics but had limited playing time, where he was initially used in an unfamiliar role, playing further forward on the left. Rose will always be remembered for his Premier League debut goal against Arsenal in 2010. Now aged, twenty two, Rose needs further experience and may go on loan if Andre Villas-Boas considers him to have a future at the club.
Adam Smith is a right-back who has progressed through the Tottenham Academy but has been sent on loan to gain experience in the lower divisions where he was highly regarded. He made his Spurs debut as a substitute against Fulham in the final match of last season and has been involved in the preseason games. Aged 21 years, he could fulfill a role as cover for Walker or go on loan in the Championship.
Jan Vertonghen signed from Ajax this summer and has vast experience internationally and in European matches. A composed, assured defender who is comfortable on the ball he can also get forward to score. He will need time to adjust to the pace and pressure of the Premier League but would appear to be the ideal replacement for King. He was the Dutch ‘Player of the Year’ last season as he captained Ajax to retain their League title.
Younes Kaboul was Tottenham’s best and most improved defender last season. A problem with lapses in concentration, earlier in his career when he first joined Spurs, has been eradicated gradually and as Ledley King said recently, Kaboul is learning to ‘be a defender’. He plays with great enthusiasm and has made five appearances for France, only missing out on their Euro 2012 squad through injury.
Michael Dawson is a whole-hearted, fully committed central defender. He missed much of last season due to two serious injuries but has over 170 League appearances for Tottenham since joining from Nottingham Forest in January, 2005 when midfielder Andy Reid also moved from the City Ground. At his best playing beside Ledley King, Dawson captained Spurs in King’s absence and has made four England appearances. He is a firm favourite with Spurs supporters but if he isn’t guaranteed a place in the team, he may look to move on with Liverpool reported to be expressing an interest in him.
Steven Caulker will be challenging for a place in the team this year after his success with Swansea last season and his performances with Team GB at the Olympics. Aged 20, Caulker’s call-up to the England squad shows the progress the former Tottenham Academy player has made in recent seasons. Caulker will be wanting playing time to continue his development and Spurs won’t want to lose him so some sort of arrangement will have to be reached as the player wouldn’t find a role as cover acceptable.
William Gallas is the experienced head in Tottenham’s defence. He, and King, displayed the benefit of their experience in the past couple of seasons and the younger players have learned from that. Age and injury are catching up on Gallas and he can’t be relied upon to play regularly as injuries are taking longer to clear up with each passing season. He has shown in preseason that he still has the desire to play but will be fit into a Villas-Boas team?
Sebastien Bassong joined Spurs from Newcastle in August 2009 and played his part in helping Tottenham to Champions League qualification at the end of that first season. Playing with Dawson they developed a good understanding but the following season with less opportunities Bassong seemed to suffer a loss of confidence which has been with him ever since. He had agreed to a move to Queen’s Park Rangers last summer but it was blocked by Spurs at the last minute when negotiations to sign Gary Cahill fell through. He went on loan to Wolves in January but couldn’t help them avoid relegation. Bassong who was used as cover at left-back in preseason is very much on the fringes of the Tottenham squad and would appear to be the most likely to move before the end of August.
Which players will make the Tottenham team for the start of the season and who will be on their way out of White Hart Lane?
Tottenham 2012-13 Squad Preview: Goalkeepers