The week that bubbled with excitement due to the impending derbies has passed and we are left with draws at Merseyside as well as North London to pick the positives out of. While many Tottenham fans might rue the missed chances in the first half as well as the inability of the team to protect the lead it had garnered through a Chadli goal, the positives of a strong defensive performance were evident through the game. The central duo of Jon Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul were up to their game against a rampant Arsenal attack that laid siege over the Spurs half in the closing stages of the game.
Kaboul in particular impressed a lot of fans and critics alike with his dogged performance at the heart of the Spurs defence. The centre-back, who began his career at Auxerre, was acquired by Spurs in 2007. After an initial season, he was sold to Portsmouth only to be re-signed by the North London giants in 2010. His power packed performances over the last few seasons have installed him the hearts of many Tottenham fans.
The Frenchman, who was recently handed the captain’s armband by new manager Pocchetino to a few raised eyebrows, was pivotal in Spurs gaining a crucial point against their arch-rivals. He led from the front with an immaculate performance and was constantly seen handing out instructions to his teammates as well as encouraging them to give their best.
The defender made a strong start to the game standing his ground and denying Welbeck from close quarters as early as in the 14th minute and did not look back from his impressive start to the game. Often cited as someone whose defensive qualities have been withheld due to his inability to focus on the game over the 90 minutes, Kaboul remained focussed to complete the task at hand of garnering something out of the tie.
Kaboul made 4 crucial blocks deep inside his box. Cruelly one of his blocked attempts made its way to Alex Oxlade Chamberlain to ram home the equalizer from close quarters. However, there isn’t a lot any defender can do to avert such situations. He was constantly pressed into action to snuff out any danger Arsenal presented in and around the box, making 10 clearances through the game. The defender wasn’t pressed into making any tackle while his partner Vertonghen made just one tackle in the game. The threats were thwarted early on most occasions thus avoiding a situation where a tackle would be necessary.
The Spurs captain has always been hailed for having the right attributes to become a world class defender. A strong lad with pace, the 28-year-old has shown tremendous ability getting into duels in the air as well as on the ground. While the Frenchman might not have won all the 4 aerial duels he had entered into, his physicality puts enormous pressure on the opposition to try and conjure something in reduced space and time. His pace coupled with his improved reading of the game over the learning experience in the English top flight result in him being able to make crucial interceptions and he made 5 of those at the Emirates. Kaboul’s echoed passion to outperform the Gunners was evident through the game, yet he was calm and composed getting into duels, not letting the occasion get to his head. The Spurs defence embodied a structured unit with Kaboul and Vertonghen pulling strings in tandem.
“We have a good understanding, Younes and I, and we fit together well. We dealt with the attackers, but as a team we can be happy. It was definitely a deserved point, even though we were 1-0 up quite close to the end, as Arsenal pressed us back. But we stuck together effectively and have come away with a draw.”
These words will be tested in the days to come, but in Vertonghen and a fit Kaboul, Spurs could possibly possess one of the best defensive partnerships in the Premier League. Many questioned the appointment of Kaboul as the captain of the squad and he has responded to the questions, if only temporarily, in style. With Tottenham adapting to their new manager’s tactics in quick time, solidarity at the back will serve them in good stead and Pocchetino will be hoping he can bring the best out of his captain over the season.