After missing out on a UEFA Champions League berth by a whisker last season, this summer was always going to be one that carried major significance in depicting whether Tottenham can achieve that feat this time around by adding a few quality additions in the transfer market.
Andre Villas-Boas and the Spurs boardroom have so far managed to deliver following the arrivals of Paulinho and Nacer Chadli, with Valencia hitman Roberto Soldado expected to soon follow, but the club’s planning ahead of the new Premier League season has been dominated by the constant speculation concerning the future of star-man, Gareth Bale, who is being heavily courted by Spanish giants, Real Madrid.
Bale, 24, has emerged as one of the best players in world football after a phenomenal season just gone brought 24 goals in all competitions and the new man at the Santiago Bernabéu , Carlo Ancelotti, has brought in a host of new talent this summer in a bid to end Los Blancos’ painful wait to once again raise aloft the European Cup, hoping that Bale will soon become the next hero for the fans in the Spanish capital to adore.
In the midst of all the gossip surrounding the Welsh wizard, in Bale’s hometown of Cardiff, Malky Mackay is also bracing himself for a big season ahead in English football and is meticulously scouring the market in order to bring in the right faces, with the right quality, to help keep the Bluebirds in the Premier League this season.
The ambition to stay there, and not just compete, has been highlighted through the investment of more than £17m on four new players and the latest to buy into Cardiff’s alluring project, Steven Caulker, is a fantastic young prospect and his experience at knowing what it takes to remain in the Premier League will make him a pivotal player in the dressing room this season.
Caulker, 21, spent a season on loan at Cardiff’s arch-rivals, Swansea City, two years ago under Brendan Rodgers and the club comfortably survived in their first season up, finishing in 11th place in the table.
Defensive improvement is a key issue every newly-promoted side looks to address, due to the step-up in quality of the opposition, but Cardiff managed to keep 18 cleansheets in the Championship last season and although Caulker will certainly perk up the centre-half positions, he will be sliding into an already solid structure built by Mackay.
Caulker’s strength in the air, calmness on the ball and his ability to pick out a pass has left some Tottenham fans questioning the club for sanctioning his sale, as his raw potential which has caught many people’s eye in the last two Premier League campaigns was rewarded with an England debut last November, in which he scored in the 4-2 defeat to Sweden.
In his brief stint with Swansea in 2011/12, Caulker made most of his 26 starts for the club alongside Ashley Williams at the heart of the defence, winning 44 (59%) of his 74 aerial duals, 51 (65%) ground tackles out of the 79 he contested and made 31 interceptions with an overall tackling win percentage of 69% throughout the season.
Caulker also illustrated his composure on the ball and he used it well when it was at his disposal, with an overall passing accuracy of 87%. The majority of his passes (47%) went forwards and he made 83 (60%) successful passes in the final third of the field, thus he will not only add experience and power, but he will also bring a cool head which is a rarity to unearth in the modern transfer market.
The England international has become Cardiff City’s new record signing after a fee in excess of £9m was agreed with Tottenham for his services on Wednesday. Caulker made 24 appearances in all competitions for Villas-Boas’ side in the season just passed, scoring two Premier League goals and making one assist in what was another productive chapter in his career.
Standing at 6’ foot 3” tall, Caulker demonstrated his aerial aptitude by making 59 successful headed clearances, winning 40 (45%) out of 89 aerial battles and scoring once with his head away at Manchester City last November. His posture and authority is just one of many resemblances to Tottenham legend, Ledley King and there is no doubt that if Caulker and club captain, Mark Hudson can form a resolute partnership at the back, creative players such as, Peter Whittingham and Aron Gunnarsson will be able to operate more openly knowing they have a decent base behind them and that only brings more benefits to the team.
Caulker was again rigid in tackling last campaign, effectively winning a challenge on average every 21 minutes whilst 66% of his 32 ground clashes were successful. He has a strong awareness of anticipating danger and goaded the opposition into 19 offside offences, again drawing comparisons to King during his days at White Hart Lane, due to the way he could detect threats with an apparent ease.
One of the best things about Caulker is that even though he is still young, he isn’t exactly a new kid on the block and already has a large familiarity with the league. Signing experienced and knowledgeable players of the Premier League is an avenue clubs feel obliged to explore following promotion, but Caulker is already well-equipped and will only get better with regular games. It’s a judicious signing by Cardiff and one that has the impending fear to haunt Tottenham if they fail to sign a good replacement fast.
Mackay has done a lot of due diligence this summer when it comes to scouting new targets, such as the signing of highly-rated Denmark striker, Andreas Cornelius for £7.5m, but plenty more exciting names have been linked with a switch and that is a testament to the club for how hard they’re pushing in the transfer window.
Caulker is a shrewd recruitment that came of the blue and if Toulouse midfielder, Etienne Capoue can be persuaded to follow him to the Cardiff City stadium this summer, supporters will be filled with plenty of optimism ahead of their debut season in arguably the greatest and most entertaining league in the world.