clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Who should start as Tottenham's defensive midfielder?

New, comments

Tottenham have three guys capable of playing the deepest role in midfield. Who should be first choice?

Paul Gilham

Yesterday we debated half our starting midfield. You guys overwhelmingly voted in support for Lewis Holtby and his box-to-box Instagram skills to start ahead of Mousa Dembele and Paulinho. But now we want to know who you want on the other side of midfield -- Sandro, Etienne Capoue, or Nabil Bentaleb?

The case for Sandro, by Dominic Wood

For the past year, Sandro has been surrounded by rumors of a move away from London with the apparent blessing of the club. This isn't the result of some belief at the club that Sandro isn't of the quality required at Tottenham. In fact, a fit Sandro has a quality likely above the Tottenham pay grade. Outside of Hugo Lloris and perhaps Jan Vertonghen, no Tottenham player can make a strong argument of being a top 10 player at their position in the world except for him. In his anchor man role, Sandro offers everything you could ever want from a defensive-minded midfielder.

World class tackling, a superb short passing game that effectively recycles possession, tight marking, and a telepathic ability to make key interceptions. The only thing holding Sandro back from being the unquestioned number one at Tottenham and transfer target for the worlds biggest clubs is his health. Fifteen to twenty starts a year doesn't cut it for a first choice defensive midfielder. However, as long as he's in a Tottenham uniform there is no reason to make anyone besides Sandro first choice. He offers the best chance to win. His absolute ability to become a rock in the midfielder allows the attackers in front of him, alongside to fullbacks, to roam forward and attack incisively without worry too much about a possible counter attack. If you can start any of Sandro, Capoue, and Bentaleb, you start Sandro.

The case for Etienne Capoue, by Lennon's Eyebrow

Mauricio Pochettino has made no secret of his desire to snag Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton's fire sale. But in the meantime, Spurs' closest approximation to Poche's favored son is our own tenacious Frenchman Etienne Capoue. Of all the defensive midfielders to choose from, he most perfectly blends a calm defensive presence with capable passing. In fact, his crisp long-range ground passes are more incisive than anything Schneiderlin is capable of.

Coming off a great pre-season, he has done everything and more to convince Pochettino that he deserves a shot. And as we saw last season before injury and Sherwood took their toll, Capoue is an absolute rock in the center of the park. Moreover, unlike Sandro and Bentaleb, Capoue possesses the positional discipline to hold in his anchoring role. Though Poche may ultimately prefer a pivot of two players who are comfortable moving in either direction, the lack of defensive nous in Capoue's midfield counterparts means Capoue's more disciplined approach to the position will be necessary to compensate for the inevitable gaps.

The case for Nabil Bentaleb, by Skipjack

Nabil Bentaleb's reputation among Spurs fans is not the best. He was a young player who got a lot of minutes due to Tim Sherwood's familiarity with him from the youth squad. His sheer number of starts became easy target for jokes among Britain's lazy (see: all) football journos. At the same time, at the bottom of the fan base barrel, many of our fans started showing their true colors by naming him "Sherwood's pet" and hating anything he did, to the point where Sherwood stopped starting him at all. While I'm sure we all appreciate these credits to our fan base, what they overlooked is the fact that Bentaleb was extremely promising for a 19 year old thrown in the deep end of the pool with very little warning.

His passing is sound and his ability to quickly and effectively circulate the ball is why Sherwood probably threw him into the line up in the first place. His ability to facilitate a quick transition out of defense into attack is essential to the kind of system Poch runs and unless we get Schneidlerin, Bentaleb is probably our best option to make this happen. At only 19, he only has room to improve and he's pretty decent right now. He is already a decent passer and willing to go in with a tackle and surely a world cup where he saw significant minutes will only help his development as a player. I'm not saying he's Sergio Busquets, but he's as close as we're gonna get right now.