Throughout recent seasons numerous injuries to Ledley King and Jonathon Woodgate have meant that Tottenham are continually rotating their centre-back partnerships. Even with the departure of Woodgate to Stoke, the issue has not been resolved. This article will look at how the candidates for the heart of Tottenham’s centre of defence shape up and answer whether a regular partnership can be found.
Ledley King is an outstanding defender; if only he wasn’t permanently hindered by injury his career would have had no limits. In his six appearances during the 2010/11 season, he won 75% of his tackles, won 42 out of 62 duels, made 13 interceptions and had an 86% pass completion rate. These statistics show his competence even when not match fit. But ultimately, his lack of game time takes its toll. So can anyone else step up to the plate?
Michael Dawson has inherited the captain’s armband whilst King is absent. Dawson’s statistics show he can step up to King in defence as well. Winning 44 out of 50 tackles, 96 out of 136 aerial duels and making 57 interceptions. Dawson has cemented himself as the first choice centre back at White Hart Lane, making 28 league appearances in a relatively injury hit season. He was also outstanding in Spurs’ run to the Champions League Quarter Finals, shutting out AC Milan twice. These stats prove why Dawson has put himself on the verge of the England squad.
Dawson’s partner in crime in the epic two-legged victory over AC Milan was William Gallas. Gallas had an excellent first season at White Hart Lane, yet the statistics don’t justify this. The Ex-Arsenal man won only 59% of his possession duels, and 61% in the air. Both statistics are surprisingly low considering Gallas was a first choice centre back last season. Tellingly perhaps, Gallas made 6 defensive errors last year, much more than his teammates.
Younes Kaboul, in his second spell at the Lane, is maturing as a defender. Harry initially moved him around from right back to holding midfielder, but his natural position has always been centre back. Kaboul started half of Tottenham’s premier league games, winning 36 out of 46 tackles, putting him on a par with Dawson and King. However, Kaboul’s success rate in possession duels and in the air was similar to Gallas (56% and 62% respectively). Given the opportunity to step up a gear, Kaboul could realise his potential and insert himself in Tottenham’s regular starting XI.
Cameroon International Sebastian Bassong had a stop-start year with a lack of opportunities and some injuries. Bassong had a 55% success rate in possession duels and 56% win ratio in the air. Both figures show Bassong was off the standards set by Michael Dawson, and why some Spurs fans are asking for him to be culled from an over-extended wage bill.
When Ledley King is fit, he and Michael Dawson are the number one partnership. But when King is absent, whoever joins Dawson remains a question mark. The statistics don’t give an outright answer. Gallas ultimately has the experience, but if Kaboul or even Bassong were to step up this season they could force their way into a regular role in Tottenham’s push for a top 4 spot.