It is incredibly easy for a Spurs fan to look at the more dynamic style of play we have adopted under Pochettino, with the high fitness levels and athleticism players like Danny Rose Or Nabil Bentaleb exhibit on a weekly bass, and come to the conclusion that any player that appears not to fit this mould should be carted off for a typical Levy 2 million pound profit. One such player who many fans are calling for to be sold is Federico Fazio, the Europa league winning captain of 2013/14 at Sevilla, and I think this criticism is far from justified.
The giant of a centre back has clearly had his bad days this season, his slip against Chelsea for Hazard’s goal at the Lane comes to mind (but that just added to the spectacle as it became a typically frail Tottenham defensive display which emphasised the magnificence of our attackers in that match!) but he has shown an incredible ability for making vital, danger averting interceptions, possesses and aerial superiority that supersedes Jan or Toby’s and, importantly, acts as an experienced scapegoat because of his languid style that takes pressure off of more sensitive characters in the side when mistakes happen; a characteristic that cannot be underestimated.
A quick comparison to our beloved Jan using the Squawka stats comparison matrix shows Fazio to have a superior aerial duels success percentage of 71.65% compared to Jan’s 66.67%, whilst also committing five fewer fouls in 12 fewer matches, suggesting Jan’s rather forceful tackling tendencies are not an attribute Fazio shares. Jan has only 2 more interceptions, 70 compared to Fazio’s 68 which, considering Fazio played over 1000 fewer minutes than Vertonghen last season, shows his excellent ability for reading dangerous passes. Arguably the key stat this comparison showed was that, in terms of mistakes that directly lead to a goal, Fazio – our poster boy for blunders – made only one, compared to Jan Vertonghen’s two for the season. So if the main criticism of Fazio is that he makes too many fatal errors it would appear that generalisation is unfair and that, when considering the stats he possesses, Fazio’s first season has actually been rather impressive as he has more than matched the man many fans, including myself, see as our best defender. Perhaps the legend of fragile Fazio may not be as concrete as many see it.
Another reason why I personally choose to keep faith with Fazio is that his scenario appears coincidentally similar to the problems Woolwich’s Per Mertesacker faced when he first came to the premier league. Mertesacker was hammered in the press and by pundits for being too slow and lacking the agility ‘needed’ to succeed as a centre half in the premier league. He too made a particular mistake against Chelsea a few seasons ago, that gifted them a goal, leading a crescendo of criticism to fall the way of the big German. However, Woolwich stuck with him and clearly are reaping the rewards of their patience with their lanky defender.
Mertesacker and Koscielny have now formed one of the more widely credited centre back pairings in the league, at times by far the most solid looking, only made possible by the faith of the manager. The confidence the fans have in the defender shows how a player of this profile can survive or even thrive in the premier league with the experience that comes from patience and being given the time to settle. Fazio, it appears, would benefit from similar treatment and I’m sure, given his pre-Tottenham pedigree with Sevilla, could become a hugely successful member of our team.
Pochettino doesn’t appear to have made too many poor choices since he has arrived at the lane and I would reject the premise that Fazio falls into the mistake category. Those calling for him to be sold already are surely jumping the gun. He has tasted European success in a way no other member of our current squad has and, after what I perceive to be a solid first season where he will have learnt an awful lot about the premier league, I for one am looking forward to seeing if he can emulate the Mertesacker template and become a beloved character on and off the pitch despite the current consensus at the club.
Chin up Federico, you’ll get there.
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