Tottenham: Last Season’s Defence Still A Problem For Spurs


The Tottenham defence continues to provide the new Spurs Head Coach Mauricio Pochettino with problems similar to those experienced last season by his two predecessors – Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood.

Mauricio Pochettino, on taking over at Tottenham, quickly identified the defence as a problem area in the team. Captain and experienced, central defender Michael Dawson was made available for transfer early in the summer transfer window as Spurs looked to refresh their defensive line-up. He left for Hull after almost ten years at White Hart Lane with new signings Ben Davies, Eric Dier and Federico Fazio arriving to bolster the Spurs defensive line-up.

New Defenders – Same Old Defence

In Spurs opening 4 Premier League matches, of the new signings, only Eric Dier has played and even that has been out of position at right-back. In the other games Pochettino has persevered with the defenders who struggled to impress last season and unfortunately, the defensive problems of the past twelve months are stil very much in evidence as the new manager attempts to turn Spurs around.

As Pochettino has juggled with the problems of injury, the late return of players from the World Cup, suspension and late transfer deals, Kyle Naughton, Younes Kaboul, Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen and now Vlad Chiriches have all played in the first league games. Many fans had expected all of them, apart from Vertonghen, to be playing a less significant part in the league this season.

Kyle Walker [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]Eric Dier

Eric Dier started the opening game in central defence but with the dismissal of Naughton, he moved across to right back and made the headlines scoring a late winner at Upton Park. He has since retained his place in the team on the right side of the defence ahead of Naughton and in Kyle Walker’s continuing absence following surgery. Dier again scored against QPR but unfortunately, he’s not a full-back and has found life in the Premier League more difficult against Liverpool and Sunderland.

With Kaboul, Chiriches and Vertonghen in central defence, last season’s failings are very much in evidence. For all his commitment Kaboul struggled against West Ham and Liverpool while Vertonghen was uncertain in the Liverpool match. Chiriches returned on Saturday in place of the injured Belgian international but twice Spurs allowed Sunderland to draw level in a game which they had totally dominated.

At left-back Rose has kept Davies out of the team, and while he may provide more of a threat going forward, defensively Rose but he had a poor game at Upton Park and against Liverpool. The same old defensive frailties are there for all to see.

New Defensive Partnership

Tottenham need a settled back and having had time to assess all the players available to him, Pochettino needs to determine what is his best defensive line-up and give them time to develop an understanding and partnership playing together regularly. Players who have failed to impress in the past need to be replaced and the new signings given the chance to establish themselves in the team.

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Federico Fazio needs to start in central defence to play alongside Vertonghen while Ben Davies should be given a chance at left-back in the league games.

The right-back position is troublesome as Walker remains unavailable. My preference would be for Naughton although I know many would be opposed to that selection. My concern is that Dier is a central defender and is unfamiliar with the right-back role. If he is found wanting, it will not help his development and confidence to be continually played out of position. The right side of defence, even with Walker in the team, relied heavily on the defensive support provided by Aaron Lennon but in Pochettino’s team, there is no cover available.

The announcement of the new Tottenham captain to replace Dawson, may give an indication of Pochettino’s long-term thinking on the way forward for the defence.

Having improved the style of football played by Tottenham, the manager’s priority is now to establish a sound defensive partnership in the Spurs team.