After conceding 8 goals in the first two games of the season, I along with a lot of Spurs fans were thinking it could be a long hard season. We still hadn’t signed the star striker that we had been coveting since the loss of Berbatov, Modric was angling for a move to Chelsea and there seemed to be a distinct lack of cohesion within the squad.
Fast forward 6 months and things are looking far healthier. Win the much anticipated game in hand at home to Everton and we could be in joint 2nd place. Who would have thought that after the first two games?! Certainly not me……
A number of things have changed since then. Harry Redknapp got his wish and was able to sign Scott Parker. I had always liked Parker but wasn’t sure he was as good as his Football Writers Player of the Year Award would have you believe. It turns out they knew a lot better than me and I have since come to realise the error of my ways – as I am sure all Spurs have. Parker has been absolutely immense. Additionally we managed to sign the striker (albeit on a loan arrangement) that we had been crying out for. A striker that is able to hold the ball up, bring others into play and score the odd goal himself. Admittedly Adebayor’s finishing has been poor at times and he is frustratingly the league’s most offside player (and I thought Defoe was bad!) but there is no arguing that he is an upgrade on Peter Crouch. Bale has been at his explosive best, Modric has settled and got back to pulling strings and Van der Vaart’s creative guile has opened up defences time after time.
Another element I would point to in this remarkable season is the performances of Younes Kaboul. He has shown a marked improvement on last season and has been our reliable rock at the back. We would all love to see Ledley King play every game but this is never going to happen. With Gallas somewhat injury prone himself and Dawson missing most of the season to date, Kaboul’s performances have been all important.
Firstly I would like to explore his stats from last season to this season. For the purpose of this article I am only going to be looking at the defensive stats. The attacking stats would be best kept for another piece of analysis entirely.
So Kaboul has played almost as many games this season as he managed last season. In 2010/11 Kaboul managed 1634 minutes in total. So far this season he has played 1522 minutes. It would have been more if it hadn’t been for his unfortunate sending off against Stoke and the following match that he missed as a consequence of this injustice.
Straight away the fact that he has kept more clean sheets already this year jumps out. I am not saying that this is purely down to Kaboul, as this has been about the team as a whole performing better as a defensive unit. From Parker offering protection to the back 4 to a safe pair of hands in goal, our defensive performance has been much improved.
So to put those numbers in context, last season a goal was conceded around every 65 minutes that Kaboul was on the pitch. This season to date that has been reduced to a goal every 80mins.
As I mentioned, this is not all down to Kaboul but if we delve further into his individual stats we are able to see how well he has contributed to this defensive performance. Last season Kaboul won 56% of his ground 50/50’s while this season that figure is up to 70% (although 76 more were contested last season).
If we then look at his aerial 50/50’s Kaboul has improved here too – winning 73% of them compared to 56% last season. This is despite competing for more aerial 50/50’s this term.
If we then look at his tackling stats we again see an improvement on last season. This season Younes has a very impressive tackling success rate of 82.35%. Last season this stood at a still very impressive 78.26%. Another area where Kaboul is much improved is in the number of defensive errors that he makes. Last season he made two, so far this season he has not made a single defensive error.
The full comparison of this season vs. last season can be seen in the table below.
As well as comparing his stats for this season compared to last, it is worthwhile to compare him to the defenders in the teams around us. I would say that the most consistent centre back in the Premier League the past couple of seasons has been Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany. If we look at the stats this ideal is more than backed up. In his 19 games he has kept 8 clean sheets and City have conceded 0.68 goals per game when he has played. Again though, this is not solely down to him. Joe Hart has had an incredible season behind him and Manchester City have defended excellently as a team. If we look into his stats though, we see just how impressive Kaboul has been this season. He has a better ground 50/50 win % (70% vs. 67%) despite contesting a lot more (161 vs. 110). He has a slightly lower aerial 50/50% (73% vs. 74%) but Kaboul has contested almost 4 times as many aerial 50/50’s as Kompany. Kaboul also out performs Kompany in terms of the number of defensive errors he has made and also the number of times he has been dribbled past.
To see how Kaboul has performed against other central defenders from the top 6 teams I have included all of their (defensive) stats in the table below. There are some exceptional performances from some of the other players that I have not touched on but I will let you see for yourselves.
It has been well documented that Tottenham could be signing a new centre back in this transfer window – indeed; we nearly signed Gary Cahill on the final day of the summer transfer window. As much as we would all love it, unfortunately Ledley King is unable to play every game and with Gallas also out injured we are again looking rather light at centre back. A first choice pairing of Kaboul and Dawson with Bassong at back up lacks a little strength in debt. There have been strong rumours circulating that a move for Chris Samba could take place. One reason why I would not want to sign a centre back now is that we have an excellent prospect on loan at Swansea – Steven Caulker. He has been performing exceptionally well and is expected to return in the summer. Signing another centre back now could hamper his future chances. I thought it might be interesting for the purpose of this article to compare the stats of Cahill, Samba and Caulker.
If we were to sign one, I would prefer Samba as I think he would offer more in both a defensive and an attacking sense. As we have been talking about defensive stats I will focus on just these again.
Caulker has only played 9 games compared to Samba’s 16 and Cahill’s 19 as his season was hampered by injury. However in the time he has played Swansea have kept clean sheets in 5 of those 9 games. In the process, Caulker has played just under 116 minutes for each goal conceded. This is far better than Samba (43.5) and Cahill (43.1) have managed.
Samba has the best ground 50/50 percentage (66) and unsurprisingly aerial advantage (70%). He also has the best tackle percentage of the 3 (76.47).
The full stats for these players are again below.
As I expected, Samba looks to be the best prospect defensively out of him and Cahill. However I would like to see Caulker return in the summer without his path to the first team hindered even further by a defensive signing in this window. With the leadership qualities Kaboul has demonstrated this season, a partnership with Caulker could be a long term solution that could flourish for years.
I hope that these stats have demonstrated that we really do have one of the top central defenders of the season on our hands. Keep up the good work Younes!