Tottenham Hotspur: Examining Potential Captain Candidates If Dawson Departs
Tottenham Hotspur captain Michael Dawson's future has been the subject of speculation throughout the summer.
The possibility of a transfer to Hull City appeared to be gathering momentum heading into July. Tigers boss Steve Bruce then revealed "we are probably as far away from a deal as we can be," here via Sky Sports' Graeme Bailey.
Dawson was a prominent part of Tottenham's North American tour. Since then, they have signed young English defender Eric Dier from Sporting Lisbon, while Villarreal's Mateo Musacchio is being linked with strengthening the north London club's centre-back ranks.
Dawson may yet have a future at Spurs. In the past he has battled back from spells on the sidelines, and the determined defender may yet do so again.
Should he leave, though (or if he features less prominently), manager Mauricio Pochettino will be tasked with selecting a new skipper for his team.
Good leadership does not necessarily require an armband. However, a good captain can help to set the tone for a team.
Over the following few pages we look at who Pochettino could call on to lead his side moving forward, examining the case for and against each player.
Each man selected has been chosen because of their past experience, attributes as players and likelihood of them being appointed captain as judged by their recent prominence at Tottenham.
Hugo Lloris has captained France since early 2012.
"I do not always give you an explanation, but I think Hugo is the one who assures me the most," then-France boss Laurent Blanc said of his decision to select Lloris, via Sky Sports. "He is someone who has the control and insight to do this role."
Just as his presence assured Blanc, Lloris has been someone Tottenham supporters have come to trust too.
Commanding in all aspects of his goalkeeping, the 27-year-old has also been as consistent a performer as Spurs have had in the two years since he joined.
In the lead-by-example category, Lloris would definitely be a good captain for Spurs.
Although not a Peter Schmeichel-style shouter, the Frenchman can be seen giving his defenders a talking to. The mark against goalkeepers as captains in general, however, is that this is about as far as their influence can reach.
Their position naturally limits their in-game communication with team-mates in a way a defender or midfielder is not so restricted (something emphasised by the remaining candidates in this article).
This is not problematic if a manager—in this case Pochettino—trusts in his outfield players to perform their duties without the constant cajoling of a captain.
Should the Argentine prefer that sort of presence, he might look elsewhere besides Lloris.
If he is part of Pochettino's plans, Kaboul's form in 2014 should be enough for him to at least be considered for the job (and with it, a starting place).
Concentration and an ability to organise have not always been among the defender's better qualities. At home to Benfica in the Europa League last season, this writer questioned his leadership in the wake of a less-than-commanding display.
That was overly harsh.
Credit to Kaboul, as the season progressed, he increasingly began to embrace the responsibility in further outings as captain. Working hard to put Spurs on the front foot defensively, he even took it upon himself to drive them forward on occasion.
Speaking to the Daily Star's Colin Harvey in mid-April, he was positively revelling in his duties:
To be captain is always nice and, even when I'm not captain, I always want to be a leader in the team. I try to lift everyone up.
For any player to be captain is a very good sign from the club. I am not young anymore, so I'm very delighted to wear the armband and I appreciate it.
Perhaps Kaboul is not consistent enough to be Spurs' first-choice skipper. But he has been a willing and competent enough stand-in to at least be the club's vice-captain. Someone they can call on when needed knowing he is prepared for its demands.
Despite generally impressing as a defender in his subsequent two years in England, he has not often looked like making an ideal Spurs skipper.
Perhaps this is a view clouded by his publicly voiced disapproval at often playing left-back. Complaining about something not going your way does not smack of leadership.
Then again, that is perhaps unfair. He has voiced his opinion, sure, but Vertonghen has just about always got on with it. A sometimes-surly demeanor does not mean he does not have what it takes to lead his team.
Pochettino placing his faith in Vertonghen to captain Tottenham from the centre-back position might be just what the player needs. An imperative to focus, manage his defence in line with his manager's demands and keep the rest of his team-mates on their toes from the vantage point playing at the back offers.
Should that be what it takes to eradicate the passive tendencies that creep into Vertonghen's game (a rare sight, but they did pop up from time to time last season), it might be a great move.
When motivated and buying into his boss' plans—something seen in Andre Villas-Boas' early tenure, not so much with Tim Sherwood—the 27-year-old is a heck of a defender and maybe a good captain too.
Players selected as captain for their team generally fall into two basic categories.
You have the more visibly vocal types such as Dawson who are typically found in the slightly more prominent positions of central defence and central midfield. Then there are others like Lloris, who lead by example but are chosen more for their overall quality than their position.
Naturally there is some overlap there in both. The very best captains strike a near-perfect balance between both—see Ledley King in recent times for Tottenham.
Christian Eriksen would fall into the lead-by-example category, at least to begin with. Such is the playmaker's burgeoning talent and increasing influence shaping his team's play, the possibility of him becoming a good all-round leader is not out of the question.
For the immediate future, though, could the 22-year-old Eriksen work as Spurs skipper?
Eriksen would serve as more of a talismanic figure. The notion of the team's best outfield player being bestowed the official title of team leader.
The Dane appears less in need of such an ego-boost than other star names such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Those two were handed the captaincies of Argentina and Portugal respectively as much to appease them as for any strategical value.
Eriksen would require sound backing from his team-mates, for sure. The likes of Kaboul and Vertonghen would need to ensure the attacking midfielder can perform his usual creative functions without worrying about getting dragged too much into the game's dirtier aspects.
It can work, but it is subject to so many variables that a more straightforward choice might prove more appropriate for Spurs.
It depends on what Pochettino has in mind for his new club. And just how much of a new direction he feels it needs to be taken in.
The Long Shots
In this writer's mind, the previous four players are the most likely candidates to become captain if a chance occurs this season. The following few seem less likely but are not beyond the realms of possibility if you fancy a long-shot bet.
Kyle Walker is one of the few Englishmen as good as guaranteed a regular starting role for Tottenham this season.
Nationality is not an essential criteria for the captaincy, of course. But if Pochettino wants to retain a home-based core in this department (and it is not Dawson), the right-back who is under contract until 2019 is the best bet.
A popular captain amongst the fans would be Lewis Holtby. The German midfielder wears his heart on his sleeve and is one of the most industrious and outwardly enthusiastic players in the Spurs team.
Holtby becoming captain would first require him to force his way into his manager's starting XI. Despite a good pre-season so far, we wait to see if he has done enough to convince Pochettino he should be playing on a weekly basis.
The striker's elder-statesman status in a young squad was a prime reason for this. It seems unlikely Pochettino would hand such responsibility to Emmanuel Adebayor or Roberto Soldado at Spurs, mostly as both are battling to win a starting spot.
Managers have shown they are not immune to strange captain appointments, though. Sven-Goran Eriksson giving the England armband to Michael Owen, anyone?