Squad Assessment: Centre-backs

Well we have taken a look at the goalkeeper and the full-back so time to complete the defence and take a look at another problem area, the centre of defence.



As we have established the defence was not up to standard and not the right type of player for the system we are now playing, thus it needed to be upgraded and reshaped. Both full-back areas and the goalkeeping situation have been addressed for the long-term, so where do we stand centrally.

In brief, not brilliantly.

Three centre-backs were highlighted as being available for sale, however no sale could take place until we had lined up a replacement. The three identified were Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches.

Since the days of Harry Redknapp we have had problems in the centre of defence with injury and his solution was to bring in old players to cover, William Gallas, Ryan Nelsen. Short term fixes don't resolve a long term problem though, just delay it. Steven Caulker came through and wanted to play football rather than be part of a squad so left for Cardiff City and has now moved on to QPR and Harry Redknapp again.

Injuries and an unsuccessful purchase has meant Mauricio Pochettino, himself a former centre-back for Argentina, had had to begin the process of rebuilding the area for the long term.

Michael Dawson was deemed to slow to play a high line, Younes Kaboul while quick enough simply hasn't recovered any sort of form at all after his injury. He also only has a year left on his contract now, the club haven't offered him a new one, while Vlad Chiriches didn't adapt to the Premier League. He got worse as the season went on, as well as getting drunk and having injury problems since.

Mauricio Pochettino likes his central defenders to have different qualities so it would depend who we bought in as to who would leave. The two main targets we had we couldn't secure. Dejan Lovren joined Liverpool for £20 million for Champions League football while Hector Moreno of Mexico and Espanyol broke his leg at the World Cup in Brazil early in the summer.

Our third choice was Mateo Musacchio, good on the ground but weaker in the air, his arrival would have seen the departure of Chiriches as a like for like replacement, however Villarreal wanted 76% of the transfer fee for a player they only owned 35% of. That scuppered that deal.

We then had to move onto our fourth choice target, Federico Fazio, who had won the UEFA Europa League with Sevilla and lost the UEFA Super Cup to UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid. He is tall and thus good in the air but a bit slow on the ground, in other words a taller and we presume upgraded version of Michael Dawson.

Thus it was of the three players available for transfer, all three of whom arranged deals to move in principle, it was a Michael Dawson replacement we eventually signed.

In addition we started planning for the future by bringing a young 20-year-old centre-back for the future, Eric Dier. He has had to be thrown in at the deep end and has coped rather well. Had their not been a World Cup this summer he would not be playing now but circumstances have been kind to him and he is doing better than I expect even Pochettino had hoped.

Our situation now is that the centre-back pairing will be Federicio Fazio and Jan Vertonghen. Depending upon the Premier League opponent and the problems they pose Pochettino can then choose between Kaboul's strength, experience and power, Dier's youth, pace and ability on the ball or Chrirches composure with the ball at his feet.

The FA Cup and League Cup, together with the UEFA Europa League will provide opportunities for those three to play fairly regularly, especially with Dier currently occupying right-back, duties he will have to share with Kyle Naughton. That is going to take him a little out of the equation at centre-half as we can't overburden him, we need to manage his game time with periods of rest.

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The fact that Kyle Walker is still injured after 6 months and just undergone surgery, meaning he'll be out for another 3 months, has meant that we could not afford to let a second centre-back leave. If Dier is to be required at right-back until he returns we needed 5 centre-backs instead of four. Thus there has been a short term stay of execution for Kaboul or Chiriches.

We could have bought another central defender of course but I suspect Pochettino still wants Hector Moreno, he was one of our first choices as we know, so it is quite possible we go back in for him in January when he has recovered and the winter transfer window opens. Alternatively we could wait until the end of the season, it will depend how we are coping.

We have a first choice pair but after that we have problems, one is needed at right-back, one hasn't adapted to the Premier League and one hasn't found any sort of form in 2 years. The area remains a weakness for a side aspiring to be in the top four, but everything can't be resolved in one window. For now though we have to hope Fazio and Vertonghen do not get injured, which will mean limiting their involvement in the UEFA Europa League group stages.

Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches may well be assigned the task of seeing us through that safely and then reassess the situation in January.

It's a new season so the slate gets wiped clean, the past is the past, the future is what counts. Just as Danny Rose will be assessed and is being assessed on what he does now, so will and are Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches.

Regular readers will now I belive Chiriches has many aspects to improve, he played against AEL Limassol and didn't have mush to do but what we did he did comfortably, which was a good start having been out for so long. If the pair click into form and improve this season great, but it's down to them and their performances on the pitch to prove they can still have a future.



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