The return of Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Scott Parker for the FA Cup win over CoventryCity was a bonus for Tottenham as they look forward to a busy programme in the coming weeks with crucial matches in the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League. Assou-Ekotto was making his first appearance since the beginning of September while Parker was making his first start for Tottenham since last season, having played for England in Euro 2012. The two internationals will strengthen the squad, aid with rotation to keep everyone match fit and also increase competition for places in the Tottenham team which has now suffered only one defeat in 12 matches.
Since becoming the regular left back in the Tottenham, Assou-Ekotto has been absent only through injury and has been unchallenged for the position. He will be aware that there is now competition for his place. During his absence with injury over the past four months, Spurs have had to play Jan Vertonghen at left back or used Kyle Naughton on the left rather than his preferred right back position. Manager, Andre Villas-Boas now has three players who can play on the left and the availability of Assou-Ekotto, means Naughton can also challenge Kyle Walker for the right back position. Every player will be aware that they have to be at their best in every game as there is someone waiting for an opportunity to play.
Benoit obviously appreciated returning to the team as he tweeted afterwards,
@AssouEkotto: “It was a good game for my first time in 2013! Thats made me so happy to hear fans singing my name. Merci beaucoup to support! LOL”
Vertonghen who plays at left back for Belgium has stated his preference to play in central defence. In mid-December Vertonghen said,
“For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. When teams drop in and you need to move the game quickly, that is one of my qualities as well. The manager knows I prefer centre-back but that is enough for me. He respects me but tells me whenever I need to play left back. I want to help the team.”
A regular centre-back role will allow Vertonghen to concentrate on forming an understanding in central defence where the partnership has changed for virtually every game with William Gallas, Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson rotating regularly. The last time that Tottenham had the same centre-back pairing for consecutive games was in October when Gallas and Caulker player together. The only other occasion was at the beginning of the season when Gallas and Vertonghen played in three successive games against West Bromwich, Norwich and Reading.
Assistant Coach, Steffen Freund praised Parker for his patience and attitude as he returned to full fitness saying,
Scott Parker has made a number of substitute appearances in the past few matches as he builds up his fitness following his Achilles operation. Parker’s ability to be constantly involved in the game will be an asset to the team and he will enable the manager to give Sandro a break as he has played constantly since the start of the Olympics football tournament in July. Parker with his constant movement and first time passing has the ability to pick up the tempo and momentum of a game which Spurs can sometimes lack if faced with a well organised defence.
“I’m really proud of Scott Parker. To be patient is not easy but that shows how strong we are, especially in midfield. It is Scott’s attitude, not only in training but he also played three Under 21 games to improve his fitness.”
The return to fitness of Scott Parker would explain Andre Villas-Boas’ thinking on Jake Livermore with the club considering allowing him to go out on loan until the end of the season. Livermore started the first three matches of the season but injury and the signing of Mousa Dembele have restricted his opportunities to get into the team, appearing only from the bench since the beginning of September.
The return of Assou-Ekotto and Parker strengthens the squad, bringing added experience and greater competition for places in the team which can only be a bonus for Tottenham in the weeks ahead.