Tottenham Hotspur's plan for this season was to start Younes Kaboul in the center of defense and work the newly signed Jan Vertonghen in until he was ready to start match in, match out next to Kaboul. In the meantime, William Gallas, Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson were all more than capable.
Spurs' plan was dependent on Kaboul, though. He was arguably the team's most valuable player a year ago and he was going to be the anchor of the back line. Vertonghen's growing pains in the Premier League? Kaboul would cover that. Caulker's adjustment to playing for higher stakes? Kaboul would cover that. Gallas and Dawson's lack of pace? Kabould would cover that.
But now Kaboul is going to be out for months. The man who Spurs were going to lean on is now out and Tottenham will have to find a way to deal without him.
There are plenty of options in his absence and they will all probably get chances, but when the team has a big match and needs to turn to their two best central defenders, who will they turn to? That's something that Andre Villas-Boas will have to figure out.
Now, acknowledging that the pairing could be chosen depending on the opponent and therefor a true top two might not be needed (but that's less fun so put it aside), let's take a look at the four available central defenders and try to find a top two.
Jan Vertonghen- The Belgian was supposed to be Spurs' go-to central defender at some point, just maybe not this soon. He has proven himself in the Eredivisie and at the international level, but the transition to the Premier League can be rough. Vertonghen fell victim to that versus West Brom, when Romelu Lukaku bullied him, but he also had bright moments in that match when he showed off his potential.
William Gallas- Of the four, he is the elder statesman with all of the guile one would expect of a player who has played at the top level for more than a decade. His problem is two fold: 1) He is often injured and even when fit to start a match, he usually comes up lame with some sort of niggle in the 70th minute. 2) He doesn't have the elite athleticism that he used to, now getting beat for pace in addition to sometimes being outmuscled by bigger strikers.
Steven Caulker- The opposite of Gallas, Caulker is the young star with loads of potential and more experience than some think because while he may not have been with Spurs last year, he did get a season in the top division with Swansea. He is big enough to handle most forwards, although he is sometimes knocked away by the bigger strikers, but he has very good feet and covers plenty of ground. Unfortunately, he was banged up last year so injuries are a concern, although it is too early to say "injury prone".
Michael Dawson- He was almost shipped off to QPR, but that deal was scuttled because of his wage demands, Spurs' need for another defender after Kaboul's injury, or both. He is a proven leader and more than willing to give up his body, while also adding some fantastic aerial abilities. The problem is that he is also injury prone and he doesn't have great pace, which is a problem with Villas-Boas' high line.
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