Cartilage Free Captain is reviewing each of Spurs' first team players and evaluating their season. The series continues today with Tottenham Hotspur center back Federico Fazio.
Yellow cards: 4
Red cards: 2
Minutes played: 2,856'
What went right?
Federico Fazio was brought in as Tottenham Hotspur's Plan B last summer after the club failed in its bid to purchase Mateo Musacchio from Villareal. A big, beefy center back, he was signed on deadline day and was expected to add spine to Tottenham's back line as a complement to the more versatile and mobile Jan Vertonghen. And in a sense, he did just that. Federico Fazio is very good at being tall, and he is a physical presence in the back line. He's big enough to be able to bang with the big guys and is pretty solid in the air. He had some nice matches for Spurs and provided at times a stabilizing presence in the back that was needed.
Fazio was also pretty good with the ball at his feet (for a big man) and had the ability to dribble out of danger from the back. This added a new dimension to Spurs' defensive game, but it was a double-edged sword as it meant that sometimes Fazio was caught out of position when he made those runs, and he didn't always have the pace to get back.
What went wrong?
Remember that physical presence I talked about? Unfortunately, that same presence also translated into a distinct lack of speed and mobility, which caused some major problems when Fazio was placed against fast, tricky forwards like Sergio Aguero. Tottenham's high line also got him into some difficulties as he lacked the pace to get back if and when balls went up over the top of the line. Fazio was also a bit of a hot-head and at times made some ridiculously dumb tackles. It was endearing to see him gut-punch Diego Costa (before he joined Spurs), but it was less fun to see him give up a penalty and get sent off for hauling down Aguero in the box last November. Fazio settled into himself somewhat toward the end of the season and played decently well after Eric Dier was pushed out wide to right back, but he's not a perfect fit for the style of football that Tottenham wants to play and he's probably not the lock-down starter we hoped for when he was signed.
Fazio is a perfectly cromulent squad defender, and he'll continue to get minutes next season in rotation and in Europa/Cups. He also has the ability, with a year of English football under his belt, to get better: his positioning started to improve toward the end of the season and he didn't look like he was about to haul off and punch someone every few minutes. But as of now the first-choice CB pairing for Spurs is probably Vertonghen and Dier, with Fazio left to duke it out with Kevin Wimmer, Vlad Chiriches, and Younes Kaboul (though Vlad and Kaboul are likely to depart this summer). In the right circumstance, Fazio can be a real asset for Spurs, but he has to be played in the right moment and against the right team, otherwise he can fast become a liability. He'll hold his own against towering strikers like Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku, but don't expect him to set the world on fire.
Grade: 2.5 Chirpys