Grading the squad: Defenders

Shaun Botterill

Time to grade the defenders. Hint: it's not pretty.

Now that the goalkeepers are out of the way we can move on to assessing Tottenham Hotspur's various defenders. I can tell you right away that, despite the way the season started, Tottenham's defenders weren't that great this year. We had two real standout performers and a couple of guys that were just "not horrendous". Unfortunately, we rarely got all four of those players in the lineup at the same time. Here are my grades.

Kyle Walker: It's been more than two months since Kyle Walker last played for Tottenham Hotspur and yet, somehow, he was still our best defender this season. Some might say that Vertonghen was better in spurts (i.e. when not playing fullback), but in terms of consistently good performances Kyle Walker was the best. That seems odd to say considering how inconsistent he used to be. Walker was near the top in many offensive and defensive stat (with the exception of goals and assists) and the soon to be 24 year old further established himself as one of the best fullbacks in the league. A-.

Danny Rose: I feel like I should fail Danny Rose on principle alone. Fortunately, there's plenty of other reasons to mark Rose down. His crossing is abysmal. If I see him smash the ball into an opposing fullbacks shins one more time I'm going to vomit. In the unlikely event that his crosses did clear the first man, they rarely found their targets. On the defensive end Rose wasn't much better. He seemed to get caught ball watching all too often and consistently failed to track runners into the box. Rose, like Walker, will be 24 this summer, but I fear we've found his ceiling, and it's too far below what Tottenham need from their starting left back. D.

Younes Kaboul: I'll be honest. I don't know what Younes is anymore. Sometimes he looks like the player he was a couple of seasons ago before his knee injury and sometimes he looks like the player he was back when when Spurs first acquired him and then sold him to Pompey. Kaboul is still big and strong, but he's lost a step or six thanks to his knee injuries and the mental side of the game has always been a bit of a struggle for him. In the past he could use his pace to make up for getting beat, but now that he's lost some of that he's in big trouble. As the third or fourth guy though, Younes is great. We just can't count on him to be first choice anymore. He played ok this year, but two reds get you marked down. C-.

Jan Vertonghen: I don't know anything about the kind of person that Vertonghen in, but this year, on the pitch, we saw a much more petulant side of him (remember that Chelsea match?). Vertonghen is still pure class at centerback and pretty good as a fullback. His griping and angling for a move are annoying, but that doesn't make him any less good. His passing out of the back is still one of the things that makes this team go and he's always calm an cool under pressure. B+

Vlad Chiriches: The new guy on the block acquitted himself pretty well in his first season in the Premier League. He, like Vertonghen, showed a good deal of skill passing the ball, but his size and strength still need to develop. In fairness though, he did do an excellent job against some big strong strikers, like Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke. Vlad had the second highest pass completion percentage on the team (behind Mousa Dembele) and also had the second most interceptions per game. I worry about the viability of a Vertonghen-Chiriches partnership in the long-term, but having a competent ball-playing defender isn't a bad thing for Spurs. B.

Kyle Naughton: As a left back, Kyle Naughton definitely gets an F, but as a right back he's easily average. Naughton played 31 times this season, which is a lot more than anyone would like, but in his 20-ish outings at right back he showed some competence. He's decent on the overlap and his crossing isn't worse than Rose's. As a defender, he lead the team in tackles and did a good job of pressing, but against the better teams he sometimes got sucked out of position or made some passes that put his teammates under pressure. Naughton is a fine back-up, but he was forced into action way too much this year and showed a few chinks in his armor. C.

Michael Dawson: The captain made more appearances than any other outfield player this season and Tottenham's defense suffered for it. No one will ever doubt Dawson's effort or his commitment to the club, but his skill is not what it used to be. At 30, Dawson is sloooooooow. He was never fast before, but it seems to take hours for him to turn now and playing in high-line made him a disaster. He made a ton of last-ditch tackles and clearances, but that's because he was forced to due to his mistakes and those of his teammates. I like Dawson, but he's outlived his usefulness at Spurs. He'd still be good for a mid-table or lower-half team, but Spurs need someone really good to pair with Vertonghen and that wasn't Dawson this year. D+.

Zeki Fryers: Coming into the season I wasn't too high on Zeki Fryers, but I have to admit that he's grown on me. He was an excellent left back in that he was not Danny Rose. As a centerback he looked ok, but very unpolished. He's probably ok there in an emergency, but I think his future should be as a left back. His passing needs to improve, but he has all the physical tools to succeed. In his limited action (9 starts, 4 sub appearances) I thought he looked pretty good. B-.

Milos Veljkovic: Milos finally made his debut! He came on as a sub twice, even playing a little midfield, and looked good. I'm not sure if the club sees Veljkovic as a defender or as a midfielder going forward, but I'm excited to see him progress. Incomplete.

Now it's time for your grades. Assign them a letter grade and then, if you like add any comment you like. As you saw yesterday, I'm much more inclined to post short, clever comments. If you feel compelled to write 500 words about a particular player, then by all means, make a fan post. Grade away!

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