Cartilage Free Captain continues its series reviewing the players of Tottenham Hotspur and how they performed in the 2015-16 Premier League season. Today's subject: Austrian reserve defender Kevin Wimmer.
Appearances: 20 (10 in the Premier League)
Goals & Assists: 0
Cards: 2 Yellow Cards
What went right?
When Kevin Wimmer signed with Tottenham Hotspur from Köln last May there wasn't much fanfare. The young Austrian center-back was coming off a solid campaign in the Bundesliga where he made thirty-two appearances for the "Billy-Goats", yet he wasn't the most heralded target of the window, and he certainly wasn't the most sought after from a supporters standpoint either. He was center-back depth, a good signing for sure, but one probably not ready for primetime just yet.
Kevin Wimmer appeared in twenty matches this season, more than what would have been predicted in July of last year, but not a number that would've summoned gasps from the crowd. Twenty games is a bit high for a promising reserve, but not completely out of the ordinary. What was extraordinary though was the punch that the Austrian packed for the limited amount of appearances he saw on the pitch.
Has any Spurs player made a greater impact for the team in just a ten game stint? Surely this statement can be ripped apart, but if it is viewed in a vacuum, it isn't that absurd of a proclamation to make. Kevin Wimmer came into a Spurs side that was in the midst of a historic season. They were high in the Premier League table and their title challenge was genuine. Their bolstered midfield and attacking heroics lauded accolades, but it was that stingy yet sturdy defense that had the best record in the Premiership. The Belgium partnership of Alderweireld and Vertonghen was formidable and familiar — how would Kevin Wimmer fit in?
Seamless would be the first word that comes to mind when considering Kevin Wimmer's cameo as starting center-back for a title contending Tottenham side. Wimmer is a bit more stout than Vertonghen, thus anxieties about his mobility in the fast-paced Premier League were a worry. Turned out that there was little to worry about. Wimmer's intellect and calm demeanor made his task seem pedestrian. His ability to position himself in tandem with his backline and choose the right situations to challenge were remarkable. He was aggressive and strong in the air and in the tackle and was rarely outmuscle. He was also impressive in his ability to play from the back. He wasn't launching sixty yard diagonal balls over the top like Toby, but there was a tranquility to his play when in possession. When Jan returned from injury against United, Wimmer was out, yet the mark he left on Spurs 2015-16 season was indelible. The casual observer may not have noticed that he was there, that the Tottenham defense hadn't changed one bit, which is why his ten game stop gap role in crunch time of the 2015-16 season was sensational in its importance.
What went wrong?
For the amount of game time that he got, there isn't much to knock on Kevin Wimmer's inaugural season with the club. He played an integral role in stopping Sergio Aguero for goodness sake! If we are nit-picky though the following concerns come to mind:
For as strong as he is, he didn't strike fear into opponents hearts with his aggression. Now in one sense this is a good thing — a central defender who is calm, cool, and collected is wonderful— yet his athletic skill-set demands that he absolutely owns the space around him. He is not particularly fast so a mix of positioning, smarts, and ruthlessness must compensate for this. He certainly possesses the former of those two qualities, the latter, in a very measured manner, must develop.
The other knock on him is that we simply don't have a large enough sample size to judge him off of. He was very solid in Europe and wondrous in the Premier League, but top flight footballers aren't flashes in the pan. They are steady in their excellence over time. The articles about Harry Kane in the early parts of this season were annoying, but valid in their commentary. One season wonders are a thing. True professionals must prove themselves for years at time, not months. Comparing Harry Kane to Kevin Wimmer isn't the greatest of examples, yet it highlights the fact that while Tottenham should be excited about three center-backs who can truly play, Wimmer still has questions to answer.
Kevin Wimmer really is a 1A option at center-back. He is not at the level of a Jan or Toby yet, but he is a great understudy to them. His game is different then theirs, but not to such a degree that they are totally dissimilar. They can be an Alexandria to his game.
The problem for him is simply getting minutes. One can't develop from the bench and he is clearly the odd man out in the preferred center-back pairing. Further, Jan and Toby aren't too old. They theoretically have multiple seasons left in their prime. Exciting for Tottenham support, maybe not so much for Kevin Wimmer.
That said, Mauricio Pochettino will find playing time for him. He proved himself last year and has rightfully gained the trust of Spurs' manager. With Champions League fixtures taking precedence, Poche can't play his second team in these mid-week draws. For this, Wimmer should see more organic starts in the Premier League and is a near guarantee to start every single cup game this term if healthy. Our big Austrian will have a huge part to play in this Tottenham renaissance. If his first season with the club is any indication, it is clear that he will be up for the challenge.
Rating: 4.5 Chirpys