In the last two seasons, Younes Kaboul has clocked a meagre 229 minutes of Premier League football. Unless the Frenchman’s fitness significantly improves, his career at Tottenham could well be in jeopardy.
Kaboul is a fine defender—arguably Tottenham’s second-best behind Jan Vertonghen, when on form and free from injury. Sadly, this is becoming an increasingly rare occurrence, with persistent knee and thigh injuries restricting him to just one Premier League start in both the 2012/13 and 2013/14 campaigns.
How much longer can Tottenham afford to gamble on his situation improving?
Last Sunday’s humiliating defeat to Liverpool—although not exclusively attributable to the team’s defensive ineptitude—highlighted the perils of relying upon three centre-backs. With Vertonghen and Vlad Chiriches carrying knocks, Andre Villas-Boas was forced into fielding the makeshift centre-back pairing of Etienne Capoue and Michael Dawson—a recipe for disaster in light of Luis Suarez’s scintillating form.
Had AVB been able to call upon the services of a true centre-back, in place of Etienne Capoue, events might’ve panned out differently—in saying that, considering the nature of the defeat, it’s naïve to suggest a simple personnel swap would’ve completely altered proceedings.
All teams experience tricky patches, where injuries pile up and compromises have to be made, but it falls under the management’s remit to limit such eventualities.
Clearly, there’s been a lack of foresight exercised with regards to Tottenham’s defensive cover. Not only in central defence but also in the full-back positions, as evidenced by Kyle Naughton’s humbling match-up against Raheem Sterling—an avoidable scenario had Benoit Assou-Ekotto not been inexplicably loaned out to Queens Park Rangers.
If Tottenham are intent on naming only four recognised centre-backs in the 25-man squad, it’s imperative that there are no passengers.
Which raises the question as to why AVB and Co. saw fit to relieve Tottenham’s ready-made fifth centre-back—Steven Caulker—of his duties, in full knowledge of Kaboul’s physiological state. Perhaps the potential £10.5 million payout was too good to pass up, although one might suggest that this constitutes the going rate for a promising home-grown prospect.
Kaboul’s constant setbacks are in part a post-operation complication, as revealed by AVB (via The Standard):
It’s a bit of a problem because of his injury in the knee it has taken him time for his body to adapt to new positions on his run. Because of that he’s putting extra strain on his muscles and keeps getting small contractions that limit him finishing the games.
So it’s not absurd to suggest that Caulker’s presence would’ve reduced the pressure on Kaboul’s return, according him the requisite time to fully recuperate.
To earn a new contract, Kaboul desperately needs to prove his fitness before this season’s denouement. Hopefully, the worst of his travails have passed and he can establish a starting berth in the first team.
This writer fears that—in the spirit of Ledley King—Tottenham have another supremely gifted defender whose true potential will never be fully explored.