Do Tottenham Really Need A New Left-Back?

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Walking toward White Hart Lane before last Saturday’s friendly against Espanyol, a sense of belief was gathering around the stadium that this could finally be ‘the year’. Interestingly, not just the year of breaking back into the top four, but finally challenging for the title. “We’re only a left-back off challenging for the league,” many said whilst watching the home debuts of Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and £26 million record signing Roberto Soldado.

When you have Benoit Assou-Ekotto or Danny Rose as your first choice left-back, it’s fair to say that a push for the top four will become even harder, as both defenders have clear weaknesses. Assou-Ekotto’s main weakness isn’t actually when he’s in possession of the ball, his decent attacking qualities even saw him play in midfield for 45 minutes against Fulham at White Hart Lane earlier this year.

In 1144 minutes of Premier League football last season, the 29-year-old found the net on one occasion from his 7 attempts, with 57% of them at least being on target. However, Rose had 10 shots in 2216 minutes, double the time which Assou Ekotto played (the Cameroonian had a lengthy injury), and only had a 40% shot accuracy. Not only this, but Lee Young-Pyo’s successor created 14 chances last season compared to Danny Rose’s 10, although the Englishman had an assist to his name from last season’s loan at Sunderland.

Considering the doubled game time which Rose received at the Stadium of Light, it’s no surprise to see that he committed 30 fouls compared to Assou-Ekotto’s 16. Interestingly, Rose actually won 61 fouls last season, which is over four times as many as the Cameroon international who won only 13. Rose also won 87% of his tackles compared to 80% of Assou-Ekotto, but that’s where the Englishman’s successes end. The more experienced left-back won 69% of his duals last season, including take-ons and aerial challenges compared to Rose’s 64%, despite the fact he had a total number of 172 duals compared to Assou-Ekotto’s 56.

Whilst it’s a feature of today’s game to have two attacking full-backs, both Rose and Assou-Ekotto left their sides vulnerable when they were being caught on the counter-attack. As well as this, neither left-back would be an ample solution to the defensive problem which remains at White Hart Lane; the dreaded corner. Last season, Tottenham conceded nine goals from corners, which is almost 20% of the total amount of times Hugo Lloris or Brad Friedel had to pick the ball out of the back of the net. Yet again, a set-piece was the route for the Espanyol equaliser on Saturday afternoon. If Danny Rose was to slot in at left-back, I have my doubts that the 5 foot 8 inch defender would be able to erase these problems, with Kyle Naughton, Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen all having better successes at aerial duals that Rose’s 57%.

What Tottenham need is to spend effectively to get that final touch of quality. A left-back who can pose threats from crosses but mainly iron out the defensive frailties which still lurk under the turf alongside the newly installed Tottenham Turfies. With Assou-Ekotto being rumoured to leave White Hart Lane for £13 million, an extra few million on top of that could see Villas-Boas capture someone of the ilk of Leighton Baines or Fabio Coentrao, and hopefully continue to set the current squad revolution into successful motion.

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