Are Kaboul and Vertonghen a bad pairing?

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Younes Kaboul had already been a sufferer of chronic knee problems before the serious injury that kept him out for most of the 2012-13 season.

Kaboul played one game alongside William Gallas in a 2-1 win against Newcastle United before a training injury put an end to Kaboul’s season. The 27 year old first came to Tottenham during the 2007-08 season after being part of an £8 Million P move from Ligue 1 side Auxerre. He followed Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch to Portsmouth as the club attempted a get-to-Europe quick scheme.

The scheme failed like Malaga and Queen’s Park Rangers and by January of 2010 the Frenchman was back in North London. He quickly became an important part of Harry Redknapp’s squad pairing with Michael Dawson or Ledley King whenever healthy as the club pushed for Champions League football. After Redknapp’s firing, new manager Andre Villas-Boas began the process of scouting his defensive players. For starters, Villas-Boas’ followed the development of Steven Caulker, Michael Dawson, William Gallas, Younes Kaboul, and  then Jan Vertonghen.

Villas-Boas has stated in past interviews that he sees a team needing only four center-halves and placed what he believed to be the expendable Michael Dawson on transfer. Tony Pulis’ Stoke City and Mark Hughes’ QPR made attempts to sign the English International but Dawson refused any deal. After Kaboul’s injury, Andre continued to try out pairings involving Steven Caulker, William Gallas, and Jan Vertonghen with Michael Dawson seeing very few minutes. Finally, Gallas’ mounting defensive errors became too apparent to overlook and Dawson was instated as Club Captain and starting Center-half. After the humiliating 5-2 defeat to Arsenal, Tottenham went on a run of good results as they had an unbeaten streak of 13 games allowing 10 goals; the new partnership of Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson solidified what had been a leaky defense.

Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson make a good partnership because of their contrasting styles. Michael Dawson is a classic English defender: he is a good header of the ball, a vocal leader, astounding when intercepting and clearing the ball, is able to keep a high back line, and covers for his partner. Dawson is not without faults as his lack of pace sometimes leaves wanting and is not a spectacular standing tackler.

Jan Vertonghen is a return to the classic libero, a defender who is not afraid to make runs forward. Vertonghen adapted quickly to the English Premier League and opposition’s defenses struggled with his forward play. One of Vertonghen’s standout performances was at left back but the performance still embodied his playing style. Gareth Bale and Vertonghen were able to expose Nani, Rio Ferdinand, and Rafael as Bale and Vertonghen played one-two’s which led to both getting on the score sheet. Vertonghen’s play style is flashy and exhilarating but is also dangerous. Two games come to mind when dissecting Vertonghen’s libero style, the draw against Everton and the stunning loss against Fulham. In both games quick counterattacks exposed Vertonghen’s poor position as Kevin Mirallas burned by Benoit Assou Ekotto who was also out of position and Vertonghen who was caught flat-footed as the speedy Belgian slotted in a goal. During the painfully languid Fulham game, Dimitar Berbatov calmly finished the ball after Vertonghen was caught in the opposition’s half. Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen led Tottenham to their highest ever point total and shored up what had been a porous defense.

Now Younes Kaboul is back, Tottenham’s official social media sites have released images of the Frenchman training with his teammates. Supporters are now clamoring for a “dream” partnership with Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen.

This young pair of central defenders could lead Tottenham’s back line for the next decade. However an issue arises when considering the style of Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul. Both defenders have high attacking work rates like a pair of Pique’s these two central defenders would look to press the ball forward and drive towards the penalty box before laying off a pass or taking a shot for their own. Kaboul and Vertonghen’s penchant for forward runs would leave Tottenham exposed in the back and put added pressure on Sandro and Paulinho to cover for their absent defenders.

During the Confederations Cup final, Brazil punished Spain’s Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos who are both attacking central defenders. With Brazil’s midfield pulling the strings dropping balls behind the pair of Ramos and Pique, this gave the Spanish defender’s fits and even caused Pique’s red card. With Manchester City’s purchase of Jesus Navas, Chelsea’s midfield, Liverpool’s Coutinho this could cause similar problems for a Kaboul and Vertonghen partnership.

When inspecting other libero defenders across Europe it is seen that a defender of a more classic approach is needed. Pique’s torrid season could be traced to the forward thinking Barcelona man’s loss of stalwart Puyol. David Luiz was paired with a more defensive minded Gary Cahill or John Terry. Sergio Ramos linked up with Pepe before the introduction of Raphael Varane.

While Vertonghen and Kaboul form a fast, strong, and attack minded defense the partnership would be horribly exposed by the quick decisive attacks of England’s and Europe’s top clubs.

This pair of liberos coupled with either Benoit Assou Ekotto or winger converted fullback Danny Rose and Kyle Walker leaves Tottenham too exposed to attacks. Either Kaboul or Vertonghen would need to reign in their forward runs for a partnership to work. Otherwise Tottenham could be in for a high-scoring but inconsistent season. An old adage reads “The best defense is a good offense” well this is not true when all the defenders are playing offense.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Kaboul and Vertonghen… pairing, I don’t know but I would much rather see

    Dawson and Vertonghen . Dawson is the backbone of our defense .

  2. A complete misread of Kaboul as a player in my opinion. He is not a player that constantly brings the ball out of the back.

    Even if he did it's then down to football basics. When one player goes the other stays, and generally the defensive midfielder would fill in.

  3. This is the worst article I have ever opened. Kaboul is strong, dominant, fast and a leader. Vertonghen is more of an elegant center half rather then the power of ths Frenchman. Yes both have attacking flair but to suggest our best defender from last season and our best defender from the season before, are a bad combination that will lead to ‘inconsistent’ displays is stupid. im actually embarrassed for you and your set of crayons.

  4. The question was; "Are Kaboul and Vertonghen a bad pairing?"

    The answer is; No. Kevin Scott and Ramon Vega are a bad pairing

  5. Moot point as both defenders are very unlikely to both go on the run towards goal at the same time, one or the other will do it from time to time (although I know Vert can and likes to pick out a 40 yard pass, something Dawson looks on in wonder). If either of the CB's were to wander forward, the players are likely to talk to each other as they both have ears and mouths that work. It's about player quality and all mentioned have that in varied degrees, they will be played in all manor of combinations, and 2 will become firm favourites, and a combination of 2 of the 3 will be used to match our opposition we will play on the day, after all we have a coach with tactics, not get out there and run about a bit!

  6. Kaboul is a brilliant player and by far our strongest CB when it comes to power. Vertonghen is a wimp on corners and let himself get beaten by both Jagielka and Boyce in crucial games that we ended up drawing. A combination between Vertonghen's skill on the ball and talent for interceptions, and Kaboul's aerial power and strength in the challenge, would be perfect.

  7. They’re both not going to be going on driving forward runs at the same time are they?! One goes, the other one stays back, and both have more pace than Dawson. Terrible article

  8. Perhaps you have blanked out the disastrous mistakes made by Dawson at the end of last season.
    He is a whole-hearted defender who gives you everything he has got but with small fast talented midfielders running at him (as with Chelsea and Arsenal) he is not at his best.
    Vertonghen lives in fear of a mistake by Benni, who is a risk taker, so he needs a fast recovering partner alongside him and I an afraid the brave, whole-hearted, defiant Dawson is not that.l

  9. Strange article that – in my view – completely misreads Kaboul's style of play. If his knee is really fully recovered and there's no lasting impact, then Kaboul is a considerably better CB than Dawson (and I'm a fan of Dawson).

    But aside from that misunderstanding of Kaboul as a player, what on earth does this mean…
    "This young pair of central defenders could lead Tottenham’s back line for the next decade."

    Kaboul is 27 and Vertonghen is 26. Young compared to me? Yes. Young for footballers? No… they are in their primes, and if Spurs are fielding a 36 and 37 year old central pairing in 10 years, something will have gone very wrong indeed. Silly statement.

    • Many defenders can play into their mid thirties and are still very able.

      John Terry
      Puyol
      Walter Samuel
      Rio Ferdinand
      Lucio
      Daniel van Buyten
      Gary Mabbutt was 37 when he retired
      Tony Adams 36
      Fabio Cannavaro was 37

      • You really want *two* guys over 35 in defence? Personally I think that's asking for trouble (pace wise). In fact, can you name one example of a top-half premiership side fielding two players with a combined age of 73 as their primary centre-back pairing. I'll be very surprised if you can.

  10. This is a nonsensical article which doesn't serve much purpose, lets just wait and see how they develop as a partnership next year. You do them both a great disservice in suggesting they don't have the footballing intelligence to adapt as a central defense pairing, without even seeing them play together in the league. Also that one game he played with Gallas last year was our opening game and we lost 2-1 to Newcastle! You started the article as you meant to go on i guess, sorry.

    • Apologies for the mistake, I misread the stats.

      Kaboul and Vertonghen are both forward thinking players, Kaboul enjoys dribbling and his weakness is discipline- I felt that that wouldn't bode well with Vertonghen

  11. LLoris
    Walker Kaboul, Dawson, Vertonghen
    Lennon Sandro paulinhio ( other guy who's name I forgot)
    hulk Bale

    Bench – Defoe, Sigardson, caulker, Rose, Holtby, Adebayor,……

  12. Good article entirely agree with you, Kaboul is weak on his left side and when attacked by the opposition going right to left in front of him he gives to many free kicks away in dangerous areas. Dawson is not the fastest granted but neither were Bobby Moore, Tony Adams, John Terry, Gary Mabbut, or the great Dave Mackay, but all were good readers of the game as is Dawson all were Captains and its true the first five yards are in the head it was Dawson who controlled and made the defence stronger and but for injuries would have played more for England and still could do. All credit to AVB for recognising Dawson's abilities and bringing him back.

  13. Haters can say what they like but this is great stuff from a simple minded spurs fan. Kaboul and Jan COULD or MAY NOT make a good pairing,that’s why we’ve got preseason.

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