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The Defensive Shuffle

Now that the Tottenham Hotspur defense is clicking, what does Andre Villas-Boas do when everyone gets fit?

Shaun Botterill - Getty Images

The internet has been ablaze with a video of poverty-stricken Haitians reading "#FirstWorldProblems" tweets, (donate to Water Is Life here). Anyways, this seems pretty relevant to an issue upcoming for Tottenham Hotspur. The Spurs defense is seemingly becoming top class, improving the entire season so far. After posting a dominant clean sheet against Aston Villa, one has to wonder just how much more improvement the defense needs to make before it's considered elite.

Perhaps most shockingly, this defensive ferocity has occurred without the two players oft considered Spurs best defenders: the injured Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul. Players have stepped up in their places. Jan Vertonghen has proven himself a dynamic threat at left back, William Gallas has shown he has a lot left in the tank, and there is no doubt now that Steven Caulker is ready for prime time.

However, when Assou-Ekotto and Kaboul return they are must-start players. So how should Tottenham Hotspur Manager Andre Villas-Boas handle this "FirstWorldProblem" of too many good defenders?

To me, the answer comes in first identifying Tottenham's top four defenders, regardless of position. For me, they are Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Jan Vertonghen, Younes Kaboul, and Steven Caulker. Irritatingly, there is only one natural fullback in that quartet. However, Younes Kaboul has experience at right back, which is seemingly the only way you can fit those four in.

One might notice that this "top-4 defenders" list leaves out the reigning PFA Young Player of the Year, Kyle Walker. Walker has put up some impressive performances so far with Spurs, but the progression in his defensive play has not been evident. The easiest way to alter the previously listed defense would be to insert Kyle Walker in for Steven Caulker, pushing the promising young centerback back to the bench in the league.

Regardless of the choice starting XI, it seems likely that defenders may be sold to fund other positions. Michael Dawson is the most obvious candidate, as the former English International finds himself at the bottom of the depth chart and almost moved to QPR at the end of the last transfer window. This may be a last opportunity to really cash in on Dawson, so unless there is a further injury crisis to the centerback core we may very well see Dawson sold.

However, if Tottenham really wants to re-invest funds (the return of #WeNeedAStriker), it may be wiser to sell a higher-profile defender. Benoit Assou-Ekotto seems to be the best example of a player who's transfer value will never be higher. Coming off a sterling season in 2011-12, the 28-year old has seemingly placed himself among the world's top left backs. With many top teams having a dearth at the position, BAE could fetch a big fee. Now, this would only be done if AVB and Vertongen both view the Belgian as a left back going forward. But if they do, BAE could find himself a fund-raiser.

On the other hand, Kyle Walker has proven himself the definition of cognitive dissonance for Spurs supporters, While scoring some stunning goals, winning awards, and being called the heir to the English right back job, Walker has also put in some shocking defensive performances and failed to become a true system player. Yet in the summer talks swirled around Walker being eyed by some of the Europe's top clubs. Walker moving would be contingent on AVB valuing some combination of Kyle Naughton, Younes Kaboul, and Adam Smith capable of replacing Walker.

The final point seems to revolve around the young players' fit at Tottenham right now. In the Redknapp era loans were heavily favored as the method of development. However, with AVB as manager and Tim Sherwood in charge of the youth, it seems the focus has turned on more internal development.

This is extremely relevant for a player like Adam Smith, who is coming off a successful loan with League 1 side MK Dons. Smith has been playing with the U-21 Premier League side and started in the Capital One Cup, but one has to wonder if a traditional Championship loan would benefit Smith. What happens with Smith may very well say a lot about Tottenham's youth policy going forward.

Who do you think should be Tottenham's starting defense when healthy? And who should go in the transfer window? Sound off below:


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