Tottenham have something of a defensive crisis on their hands. Without almost all of their first choice backline, AVB very much has to make do at the moment. December is an arduous period in the Premier League at the best of times, but for Spurs the festive period could be all the more damaging given the number of players they have out on the sidelines.
Spurs have the strength in depth in most areas to cover for a crisis, but in defence the situation has become particularly worrying. Younes Kaboul’s long term injuries woes don’t appear to have abated, and now the clubs first choice centre half pairing of Jan Vertonghen and Vlad Chiriches appear to be looking forward to a spell on the sidelines with ankle and knee injuries respectively.
Club captain Michael Dawson looks to be the last man standing, and given his slump in form of late you wouldn’t bank on him single handedly weathering the storm. AVB is having to shuffle his pack and adapt to a difficult situation and if the Sunderland game is anything to go on it would appear he is faring quite well.
It was Etienne Capoue on Sunday that had to slot in at centre-half, something that he has proved capable of during his time at Toulouse Ligue 1. Glenn Hoddle and Jamie Redknapp were quick to point at the risks and make this out to be some tactical aberration, but what were the alternatives really?
As it turned out Capoue was fairly anonymous during the whole match, something that points towards a solid defensive performance in my opinion. Capoue has the physique and technical ability to play at centre half, and for me it wouldn’t be a gaffe to persevere with him there in the next few weeks. AVB was fully of praise for the Frenchman in the aftermath of the 2-1 victory:
“It was a great performance by Etienne,” the Portuguese told the club’s official website. “We had to shuffle the back four completely. Etienne deserves credit because he was looking for a performance like that and he gave it over the 90 minutes. We spoke to him during the week, we all want him to succeed here and great performances like that mean he’s back on track. Everyone is extremely happy for him.”
Aside from Zeki Fryers, there really aren’t many youth players pushing for a first team place at centre half. Fryers himself lacks the experience for the Premier League, and his inclusion would be more of a gamble than persisting with Capoue in a less familiar position. It isn’t ideal for Spurs, but it isn’t the disaster many would like to paint it as.
Being a bit more creative with the defence has over benefits for Spurs. The over-sized midfield talent pool has been well documented, and as of late it has been difficult to accommodate those that merit a first team place.
For Capoue this is particularly true, the likes of Sandro and Paulinho both proving difficult men to shift from the first team line-up. It may seem like an overly optimistic way of looking at losing your two best centre halves, but allowing Capoue to play at the back affords him the first team opportunities that he deserves. For the next few weeks at least AVB wont have the constant issue of having to fit everyone into his midfield, perhaps making the selection task easier.
AVB has chopped and change in recent weeks, and now with less midfielders to select from we may see a bit of much needed consistency from Spurs.
The versatility of Capoue may just be enough to avert a defensive crisis at Spurs, and help them make do during a difficult Christmas period in the Premier League.