Friday, February 27, 2009

How to fix Tottenham's defensive problems

While the midfield and strikers have not exactly pulled their weight at all times this season, the majority of the problems with the squad have been in the defense throughout the year. We all know the problems that Gomes has had, and I'm not going to beat a dead horse here, but what do about our defensive problems?

The right back position has been good for us throughout the year, Corluka has proven to be an excellent buy for the club, but for my money, I'd like to slot him inside to center half over time. He does get forward, but is not as comfortable as someone like Javier Zanetti at Inter in contributing to the attack. I think we have that type of fullback/wingback already at the club in Alan Hutton. He's been injured throughout most of the year, and hasn't been able to get out and show Harry what he can do, and I am thinking that even if he is close to fitness before the end of the year, Harry should rest him, have him train and get ready for next year. When he is healthy, I think Hutton will be a good right back for the club, getting forward when needed, but steady in the back and covers well.

Hutton was a big buy, at around 9 million pounds from Rangers in January of 2008, and at the same time we purchased Christ Gunter as well. Gunter is young, and needs to go out on loan to get some experience before he is ready to compete for a place in the first team. He has a lot of potential, and has played well in the Carling Cup for the club, but is still too raw, like last night where he didn't close down and the crushing goal was scored by Shakhtar.

Pascal Chimbonda came back to the club here at the end of January, and I say we cannot get rid of him fast enough. It is clear that Harry simply wanted cover for the rest of the season when he first wanted to get Chimbonda back on loan. When Hutton gets back to fitness, we will have four right backs on the books, and I think Chimbonda needs to be sold in the summer, though I don't know if we'll find any takers. He is a good player technically, but makes rash tackles, and gets caught upfield too often.

What I would do is have Hutton and Corluka splitting time at right back, with Corluka slotting in the center as needed, this would be best for the club in my opinion.

We have quite a few center backs on the books, and they are all talented, probably one of the best positions at the club. Sadly, I am wondering how much longer Ledley King can keep playing with his knee injury. As solid as he is, we don't see him on the field nearly enough, and problems arrive with that. When we keep changing out our center back pairing, it creates confusion, and the consistency doesn't come that is needed to hold the defense together. I think Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson have been the players of the season for us, and are now making the best pairing for the club. They have the connection now that Dawson and Ledley had 3 seasons ago, knowing where the other was going to be instinctively. I hope Ledley can get back to full fitness again, but I don't think it is going to happen unfortunately, and so Dawson, Woodgate and Corluka should be our center backs.

The left back position is where I believe we've been let down most by this season. All we have heard since Gareth Bale came to the club is how talented he is, and we do see flashes of that from time to time, but if you are going to be a left back, your first priority has to be to defend. The penalty that Bale committed against Stoke, which led to his sending off, is the perfect example of how undisciplined he can be in defense. He has to close down on wingers, stay in front of them, and not make rash challenges. He does get forward well, but doesn't track back as quickly as needed. He did better last night as a left winger where he had fewer defensive responsibilities.

I have to admit, Benoit Assou-Ekotto has been my whipping boy this season. I threw things at the tv when he was sent off against West Brom, and I've felt he was as bad as Bale defensively at times. In the last couple of matches he has played much better, and had a great assist to Woody the other night, but I don't think he is the long term answer.

Many names have been mentioned to come into the club in the left back role, such as Nickey Shorey, or Leighton Baines, but I don't think Shorey would be the answer and I doubt Everton would let Baines go. He would be a good answer, but I wonder what his price would be. A short-term answer could be someone like Paul Robinson, the left-back at West Brom. He is thirty, but is solid and could be a short term answer while we wait for Bale to develop. Another answer could be Andrew Taylor at Middlesborough, who has been solid for Boro and could be available if Boro are relegated.

I hate to seem cold and callous, but two players who are defenders have no future with the club in Gilberto and Ricardo Rocha. They may be great guys, but they can't get the job done, and I expect to see them leave the club in the summer.

Our goalkeeping problems have been well known, with Gomes playing poorly all year and Carlo Cudicini not being a spring chicken. I think Cudicini will be a great keeper for the club over the next couple of years, but is clearly not a long-term option. He could be with the club for a couple of seasons, but we need to find someone young who can be our answer in the goal, someone like Joe Hart from Man City, or for my money, Scott Carson at West Brom. Both are young and have potential, and either would be an improvement over Gomes.

So our defense is not all that bad, it just has not played up to expectations this season. I think a lot of that might come from not having confidence in your keeper, as we have played better as of late. If we can get a new left back in and settle on a pairing in the center of defense, I think we can shore up our defensive problems, at least I hope so. I will look at the problems in the midfield and up top in a later post.

Tell me what you think has been the problem this season, and how you would fix it.

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