Tottenham Focus - Could Bastian Oczipka solve Spurs' left-back problem?
Tottenham appear to have a problem position. Not up front, though the problems here are well-documented, but at left-back. Kyle Naughton and Jan Vertonghen had been filling the position in Benoit Assou-Ekoto’s long-term absence through injury with a varying degree of success.
Vertonghen has played reasonably well there but perhaps lacks the pace needed for the role, whilst Naughton has looked uncomfortable. Playing Naughton has negated Spurs attacking threat as being right-footed has reduced the player’s ability to overlap and get to the byline. However, Naughton’s main problem has been defensively. Whilst his tackling success is reasonable, arguably his sense of positioning is poor and on too many occasions Spurs have looked vulnerable down their left when he has played.
Perhaps surprisingly when Assou-Ekotto returned from injury, the Cameroonian didn’t slot straight back into the side and has struggled to gain a starting place. Whether he does not have his coach’s confidence only André Villas-Boas can answer, but there should be some sympathy for Assou-Ekoto. His natural partner on the left - Gareth Bale - has moved into the centre and the replacements tend to cut inside again making any natural overlap difficult. A decent defender but one with a quirky, occasional hang-loose attitude on the pitch - it’s part of his charm - rumours have been flying about replacement left-backs.
Obviously Spurs have Danny Rose to come back from loan. Rose has done well in a struggling Sunderland team, making 21 starts. In doing so he has won 2.2 tackles and made 2.5 interceptions and 2.1 clearances per game. Going forward, Rose has made 11 key passes, one assist and 22 successful dribbles. At 22-years-old, this summer may be make or break for his Spurs career, especially with Spurs’ recruitment of youngster Zeki Fryers and whether Rose has a future at White Hart Lane.
Spurs have been linked to Luke Shaw, Aly Cissokho, Leighton Baines and Fabio Coentrao amongst others, but age, experience and cost would all play a factor along with ability. Amid all the rumours has one candidate been overlooked?
Bastian Oczipka has been an ever present for Eintracht Frankfurt team that is pushing for Europe following promotion. The 24-year-old has perhaps been the Eagles’ best player this season. Defensively solid, winning 3.8 tackles per game, Oczipka has made 43 interceptions and 52 clearances in the Bundesliga. Where he may really suit Spurs though is going forward. Eight assists, 58 key passes, good accuracy with the cross and long ball, the German has also made 67 successful dribbles forward.
Some of Oczipka statistics compare favourably with others, some don’t. Do Spurs want to spend large amounts - on say a Baines or Coentrao - when the forward position, normally one of the most expensive to fill, needs serious investment? Probably not, and Oczipka offers a good left-back, who at only 24 has time to improve and who would not cost the earth.
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