Predicting Tottenham's First-Choice Starting XI for the 2012-13 Season
With the transfer market in full swing and the start of the new season just around the corner, it’s that time of the year when we love to speculate how the coming campaign will play out.
Andre Villas-Boas may not have had the most successful of spells at Chelsea but the Portuguese boss has had a hopeful preseason and will be making his final adjustments to the squad in the next two weeks or so.
That being said, we’re able to look at the current batch of talent at the club and develop a general idea of just how Spurs will line up in their season opener against Newcastle United.
The following team selection pertains to players currently at the club and all transfer speculation is moot, no matter how strong the link may seem.
In addition, the candidates included are presumed to be at full fitness in order to give us the optimum team available.
Regardless of who may come to the club before the summer transfer window slams shut at the end of August, this is a starting XI that Villas-Boas could well utilize in the coming challenge.
Goalkeeper: Brad Friedel
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In what could be his final season of professional football, Brad Friedel looks set to remain between the posts at White Hart Lane this term.
The US international enjoyed successful terms with Blackburn and Aston Villa before finalising his move to north London, a tenure that has bore even more fruit.
Despite being 41 years old, Friedel is still able to cut it amongst the world’s elite ‘keepers and if ever there was a testament to the ideology that age is just a number, Friedel’s it.
In his first season as a Tottenham player, the veteran managed to keep 14 league clean sheets and conceded an average of just over a goal per game.
Friedel didn’t miss a minute of Spurs’ march to a fourth place finish in the 2011-12 Premier League and will be hoping to sign off from an illustrious career in style.
Right-Back: Kyle Walker
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Kyle Walker missed just 90 minutes of Tottenham’s 2011-12 Premier League season, earning his first call-up to the English senior squad in the process.
With his surging runs down the right flank, the 22-year-old shows a lot more maturity than his age lets on and should Walker stave off injury with success once more this season, the right side of the defence should be his to command.
Villas-Boas appears to be a fan of utilising wing-backs to their full attacking potential, evidenced from his stints at Porto and Chelsea.
While Walker may have a little to work on defensively, he’s actually a pretty well-rounded athlete and is the safest bet to secure the No. 2 shirt in the coming months.
Left-Back: Benoit Assou-Ekotto
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The preseason months have seen Andre Villas-Boas trying out a number of players at left-back including Kyle Naughton and Sebastien Bassong.
However, the closer we come results starting to matter, the more likely it seems that Benoit Assou-Ekotto will be the one to occupy the position with some dominance.
The Cameroonian international has little in terms of competition for his spot and while, like Walker, there are questions to be raised about his defending at times, Assou-Ekotto makes up for such shortcomings with a very potent attacking edge.
Functioning more as a winger at times, the Bale/Assou-Ekotto partnership down the left proved devastating to the opposition last season and the two are odds-on favorites to be paired up again this year.
Centre-Back: Jan Vertonghen
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One of this summer’s new acquisitions, Jan Vertonghen may struggle to hold down a first-team spot at White Hart Lane, something he didn’t have to combat with at Ajax.
That being said, Spurs bought the Belgian international for a reason and the former Godenzonen captain has featured greatly in his new side’s preseason fixtures.
Vertonghen has played in all six of Spurs’ friendlies this summer, three of which were as part of the starting XI.
This kind of involvement tells us that Villas Boas isn’t looking to let his purchase become a squad player and is instead hoping to mould him into the starting setup.
With Steven Caulker now back at the club following his loan spell at Swansea City, there is even more competition for places at centre-back but Vertonghen has the talent to hold his own.
Centre-Back: Michael Dawson
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Recently named as the club’s captain following the retirement of Ledley King, Michael Dawson looks to be the most assured choice to start in the centre of defence, providing he can maintain his fitness.
Dawson has played in all but two of his team’s preseason matches but doesn’t need to prove his ability to the same extent that others might.
The new campaign will see pressure coming in the forms of William Gallas, Younes Kaboul and Steven Caulker, all of whom have their own arguments as to why they should be starting.
In a way, it’s an excellent conundrum for Andre Villas-Boas to have on his hands but Dawson, somewhat of a stalwart at White Hart Lane, has enough experience under his belt to make the position his own.
A commonly underestimated player, the 28-year-old is regularly on the fringes of the England national side and as long as he can stay fit, the second centre-back spot will be his.
Centre Midfield: Scott Parker
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Since moving from West Ham last summer, Scott Parker has proven himself to be a very valuable purchase for Tottenham, providing a vital link between midfield and defence.
Currently injured, Parker is set to miss the start of the season but if the anchorman were at full fitness, there’s no question that he would occupy one of the spaces in the centre of the park.
A staple in the English midfield when playing well, Parker doesn’t do a great deal when it comes to attacking but were it not for his ball-winning presence, there may not be as many attacks to be had in the first place.
Sandro and Jake Livermore are undoubtedly both champing at the bit to take the starting jersey away from their teammate, but 28 league starts last season would suggest that Parker’s experienced mind is the most valued one.
Centre Midfield: Luka Modric
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Regardless of how likely it may seem that the Croatian won’t be at White Hart Lane for much longer, Luka Modric remains a Tottenham player and is an easy pick for starter.
As mentioned, this list presumes that all players included are at the peak of fitness.
With Modric, it isn’t a nasty Achilles injury or knee twist that could hold him back right now, but a plague of the mind.
According to club and international compatriot, Vedran Corluka (via Telegraph), Modric is keen to leave the north London outfit in a bid to find Champions League football, even going as far as to miss training sessions (via Guardian).
With all that in mind, Modric is still a supremely capable playmaker and one that created the Premier league’s second highest tally of goal scoring opportunities last season, just behind Manchester City’s David Silva.
If Andre Villas-Boas were able to clear his player’s mind of any desire to move away, he would once again have a team talisman with the ability to turn a game’s fortunes on his own.
The problem is pulling off the first part of that feat.
Right Wing: Rafael Van Der Vaart
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After being linked with a move to former side Hamburg (via German media, h/t Metro) over the summer, Rafael van der Vaart seems set to stay put in his current surroundings, much to the appeasement of Spurs fans.
The Dutchman struggled to maintain optimum fitness levels last season, with commentators alleging that the player’s weight was one contributing issue.
However, even if just for 70 minutes per game, van der Vaart is capable of producing pieces of technical mastery either through open play or from a set-piece situation.
The 29-year-old operated mostly out of the hole behind the striker last season but, as we’ll see in two slides time, he may find himself pushed out wide on a more regular basis in the next campaign.
Left Wing: Gareth Bale
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Probably the first name on the teamsheet for just about every Spurs fan out there, how can Gareth Bale not be a part of the Tottenham starting XI?
The Welshman was involved in quite a bit of controversy this summer after he played over 70 minutes for Spurs against the LA Galaxy despite opting out of Great Britain Olympics duty due to a back injury (via BBC Sport).
Andre Villas-Boas won’t care one jot what people think may be going on behind the scenes and will merely rejoice at the fact that his winger managed to net two goals in preseason.
Bale signed a four-year contract extension earlier this summer (BBC Sport), fending off any interest that European clubs may have in his signature and giving Spurs something to cheer about.
Attacking Midfield: Gylfi Sigurdsson
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The second addition in Andre Villas-Boas’ summer spending spree, Gylfi Sigurdsson has already made a resounding impression as a future fan favourite at White Hart Lane.
The Icelandic international made a highly successful return to England last season when Swansea City took the playmaker on a temporary loan deal from Hoffenheim.
Sigurdsson first made headlines on these shores as a teenager at Reading but has since failed to fit in amongst the German elite and appears to suit the English far more comfortably.
Villa Boas has already seen his purchase net in two preseason fixtures this summer and while his main priority is arguable to provide, Sigurdsson is more than capable of contributing a goal or two when the need arises.
In a similar fashion to Rafael van der Vaart during his time in north London, Sigurdsson will plug the space behind the strikers more commonly known simply as “The Hole.”
Given the shortage of strikers currently at the club, Sigurdsson will need to exercise every bit of his scoring talent this season if Tottenham are to make their way back into Champions League competition.
Striker: Harry Kane
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Probably the most surprising name to feature on this list, it appears that Villas-Boas may place his faith in Harry Kane this season as opposed to the more experienced figure of Jermain Defoe.
Kane is yet to make a Premier League appearance in his career but following an impressive spell on loan at Millwall last season, the 19-year-old may find all his fortune coming at once.
The Daily Mail has reported that Kane could well get his chance ahead of the ageing Defoe.
Defoe has been linked with a move away from White Hart Lane this summer (according to Darren Lewis of the Mirror) and with little else in terms of attacking options, Kane looks to be the preferred youngster to get the nod.
Spurs still have two weeks to recruit some striking reinforcements should they feel the need to do so but with the season starting this weekend, they may have to make do with what hey currently have amongst their ranks.