Thursday, 31 May 2012

In Defence of the Defence

So far I've looked at the centre of our midfield, our wide options and our goalkeeping situation and in an ideal world I've brought in Cabaye (depending on Modric's desire to leave), Hoilett and Kasper Schmeichel.

In terms of whoever starts the season in front of whoever our goalkeeper is, well your guess is as good as mine. There is still so many questions to be answered. Will Ledley King stay another year? The general consensus in the papers currently is yes. Will William Gallas head off to sunnier climes for a final swan song before he wraps up his career? All that talk has gone quiet, so that remains to be seen. He was hardly seen until late this season, and he was solid when called upon. But the pace he once had has left him and he was, at times, exposed because of this.

My gut feeling is that King will stay another season, as well as Gallas. But for me, I'm not keen on seeing either again. Ledley has been unbelievable for us all throughout his career. But playing with the injury he was alleged to have this year, as well as his knee problem has led to many fans calling for him to retire before he tarnishes the fine image every Spurs supporter has of him.

I can't imagine Gallas being happy to sit on the bench for very long, assuming he can keep himself fit. And he has a strong personality in the squad and won't be afraid to voice his feelings if he's unhappy. Harry's refusal to rotate at the appropriate times means he'll once again pick his favourites and they will play until they, inevitably, get injured. Those in reserve will then come in, and like Bassong this season, look way of the pace and be exposed and then ridiculed for it if they make a mistake.

Ryan Nelsen, despite Harry's comments to the contrary, is likely to be gone. He was an unusual signing, probably one the Club thought they could get away with because he would come in and be happy to sit on the bench for four or five months.

Kaboul has been our stand out player in defence, and arguably the whole team, all season. He's matured massively and lead from the back when he can't have been sure who he would be partnering come the weekend. I've said on a few forums and on twitter that if Harry had the bravery, or even the sense, to stop chopping and changing our defence every week and stick with Kaboul and Bassong, (best friends off the pitch) we'd have looked more comfortable at the back.

As I've mentioned, when Bassong was brought in, be it in the Europa League, or his rare excursions in the Premier League, he was not match fit and lacked that sharpness that comes with a run of games. If Bassong had been given that run, instead of hoping the swelling in Ledley's knee has gone down, or that Gallas could manage ninety minutes, he would have regained that, and probably looked as good as he did when he played a lot of games on our way to fourth in 09/10.

Playing Bassong allows Kaboul to play as the right of the two central defenders, where he is clearly more comfortable and would let him build an understanding with Kyle Walker at right back, instead of switching from left to right, depending on who was fit to partner him. Bassong, when really on his game, is strong, quick and good on the ball, something we haven't seen in two seasons.

Rumour has it that Jan Vertonghen, of Ajax, will have his medical today before signing on the dotted line. While I'm delighted to see us trying to do some early business, it makes me wonder what will happen to the four centre backs I have already mentioned, assuming Kaboul will still be first choice.

I think we all can see Bassong leaving, along with Nelsen, those two are almost certain to leave. Question marks hang over King and Gallas. But there's still another two central defenders soon to be reporting for pre-season training; Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker.

Dawson has had an awful couple of seasons with injury, but knowing the fighter he is, you wouldn't bet against him returning and battling back to the player he was. Daws' has always been a favourite of mine because of the passion he brings when he plays. He's a Nottingham boy, but if you cut him open he would probably bleed lillywhite. He loves playing for Spurs and does so for every one of us that will never be good enough. He's spoken about the honour he feels when he plays for our great Club and when he captains the team. I would hate to see him fit and not playing because of new signings or because of the old timers overstaying their welcome.

Caulker has had a superb season and the Swansea fans have nothing but nice things to say about him. See Peter Thomas' superb article on our young pretender here. He comes back to Spurs eager to make a mark on the first team in the way Kyle Walker did this year after impressing at Q.P.R. and Aston Villa respectively. He has all the talent to become a legend at Tottenham. His composure on the ball and his reading of the game off it have drawn comparisons to the one and only Ledley King, and rightly so.

Brendan Rodgers seems, annoyingly so, destined for Liverpool. This could throw into doubt a return to Swansea next season on loan. But also open up the possibility of a move to Merseyside for Caulker himself, who Rodgers has waxed lyrical about since his loan to Wales. This would frustrate me massively because it's obvious what a talent he is, but could be another to slip through our net because of mismanagement or an unwillingness to trust youthful talent.

Kyle Naughton is another returning to Spurs with something to prove. When he was signed along with Walker from Sheffield United, he was the more established of the two young full backs. Roles has reversed however and Walker is now once of our most important players.

Naughton impressed on loan at Norwich, not quite to the same extent as Caulker at Swansea, but enough for the Canaeries' fans to want him back next season. He has covered both right and left back this season and been solid in both positions. He's clearly more comfortable on the right, but that versatility should see him earn a place in our squad as cover. Whether he'll be satisfied with that remains to be seen.

Vedran Corluka is likely to leave too, admitting he would prefer to make his loan move to Bayer Leverkusen permanent. 'Charlie' is a player I see as badly treated by Spurs and another example of what happens when the squad isn't properly rotated. Kyle Walker suffered late in the season from fatigue and this surely must have been considered when allowing Corluka to leave, but leave he did and Walker played the last few weeks with a broken toe and went on to miss out of a place in England's Euro 2012 squad.

Danny Rose could leave during the summer too, either on loan or permanently. Ideally I'd like to see Rose join a Premier League team on loan and then we can judge him. Ian Harte can't go on forever for Reading and if Brian McDermott is willing to rotate then that could be a good move for Danny.

Ideally I'd like to see us start next season with a back four of Walker, Kaboul, Vertonghen, and Assou-Ekotto (who I haven't even mentioned as he continues to go from strength to strength at left back for us and will hopefully be here for years to come). With our luck with defensive injuries, if Caulker remains at the Club he is still likely to play up to thirty games in all competitions, which hopefully would be enough for him to stay.

Dawson and Caulker, if retained, MUST play consistently, not just the odd Thursday night excursion. Naughton too, he can cover both sides and can attack and defend with composure. If at least one of King and Gallas are retained, it can only be as fifth choice, they can't continue to be dropped into the team when deemed fit enough.

I'm hoping Harry can change his ways, although rumour has it that he's off before the weekend. Rodgers seems to be off to Anfield, while Martinez has pledged his future to Wigan. I can't see Harry going without a replacement already lined up, but who does that leave us with? AVB? I have my reservations.

It is better to fail aiming high than succeeding aiming low. And we at Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory” Bill Nicholson.

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