Cartilage Free Captain is again reviewing all of Tottenham Hotspur’s first team players and evaluating their performance in the 2016-17 season. Up next: young English-American central defender Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Appearances: 4 (2 FA Cup, 2 EFL Cup)
What went right?
Last season, Cameron Carter-Vickers was a super promising youth team defender, an 18-year old defender able to ball with the U23s without a significant drop-off. That, combined with Mauricio Pochettino positively gushing about him from time to time, led us to pin some high hopes on him as a future contributor to Tottenham’s back line.
This season, CCV was again part of Mauricio Pochettino’s plans... sort of. He was essentially Tottenham’s fifth center back, mired behind Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, and Kevin Wimmer. That was good enough for him to make the bench a number of times in the Premier League when various players were out due to injury. Putting aside Premier League 2 matches, Cam started two FA Cup games (against Aston Villa and Wycombe), and two EFL Cup games (against Gillingham and Liverpool).
CCV also was included in the USA’s U20 World Cup team, and while he was the victim of some dubious officiating decisions, he had a quite solid performance on the whole. Our friends at Stars and Stripes FC called him probably USA’s best U20 defender, and he’s only 18.
Also, he avoided the Mauricio Pochettino Kiss of Death — the lower league loan. That is usually an indication that a player isn’t really in Poch’s plans, as he likes to keep his most promising players around to train with his first team. So there’s that.
That’s pretty much all we have to go on.
What went wrong?
Unfortunately, Cameron didn’t always show his best football in the few opportunities he did have in Tottenham’s first team this season. Against Wycombe he was tasked with stopping (or at least slowing down) rotund striker Adebayo Akinfenwa, and didn’t always look up to the task, giving away a penalty and making a few costly defensive errors in Spurs’ goofy 4-3 cup win. Against Gillingham he was solid enough defensively against a far inferior side, but had a few moments where his touch let him down, leading to defensive giveaways.
In all four of his appearances for Spurs this season, he was paired with Kevin Wimmer, and the two didn’t really seem to find that much chemistry as a pairing. You can chalk that up to inexperience, or an inefficient defensive combo, or whatever — the fact is, with a couple of exceptions, Carter-Vickers did not look much like a central defender who we should expect to be a solid contributor for a Premier League side who could compete for the title next season.
If the above feels harsh, well, it is. The fact remains that Carter-Vickers is still stupid young for a central defender. The fact that he’s been allowed to train with the first team this season, has made the Premier League bench numerous times, and picked up more first team game time than Marcus Edwards indicates that Mauricio Pochettino still thinks CCV has got a lot of potential. And he probably does. I don’t know very many eighteen year old defenders who would be able to come in and be excellent, or even very good, against Premier League competition. And in fact, you can make an argument that it’s good for a talented player to struggle at this phase in his career.
That said, unless Cam makes a pretty significant leap this summer, it’s hard to say that he’s going to have much of an impact on Spurs’ first team again next season. The rumors say Spurs are actively looking for a new central defender in this summer’s transfer window (ostensibly to replace Wimmer), and it doesn’t seem like Cam is ready to leapfrog up to 3rd/4th CB anytime soon. That’s not to say that he can’t, just that he needs more time.
Not every wonderkid can be awesome when they’re still a teenager. There’s probably a good defender in there somewhere that needs time to get out. What CCV needs more than anything is just consistent match time. Until then, he should continue to train with Spurs’ first team and try and get the most out of the few match opportunities he’ll probably receive.