Before the start of the season, many Tottenham fans perhaps thought that Steven Caulker would be fourth or fifth choice centre back. The talented youngster performed well on loan at Swansea last year, to the extent that a new Spurs contract had been signed and Caulker would be staying at The Lane this season. However, with Younes Kaboul, new signing Jan Vertonghen and old hand William Gallas in the defensive ranks, Caulker’s chances of regular appearances appeared remote.
Fast forward and things have changed. Injuries to Kaboul, then both left backs coupled with one poor first half against Queens Park Rangers handed the young Englishman an opportunity. He appears to have grabbed it with both hands.
Caulker had played in the Europa League against SSC Lazio and looked comfortable despite having the experienced Miroslav Klose to contend with, but it was those 45 second half minutes against QPR that changed things. Perhaps ironically not so much just for his performance but for that of Vertonghen’s at left back. Caulker didn’t win any tackles but his clearances and passing helped restore order; the back four looked much more balanced and Vertonghen was able to rampage down the left. Caulker has played very minute in the Premier and Europa League since.
Spurs fans knew Caulker had quality but did Spurs fans know just how good he would be? Obviously these are still early days in his Spurs career and at just 20 years old, Caulker may the first to acknowledge he is still learning his craft but the signs are extremely promising.
For a centre back, he has a relatively low tackle count. He won an average of 1.3 tackles last season, an average not yet reached this. It’s not that he can’t tackle, arguably he doesn’t have to. Firstly, he stays on his feet, doesn’t dive in. With his positioning and [deceptive] pace, he pressurizes the opponent, forcing the opponent to take the wrong option, either by shooting early – he has a high number of blocked shots – or into to giving the ball away. Caulker also has a high clearance rate. The benefit for Spurs, is that this is not the hoof up field [though he has a high long ball accuracy rate] but more the short simple pass, keeping possession while clearing the danger. In hindsight, Swansea and their passing ethos may have been the perfect loan move for him.
His football abilities maybe reminiscent of Spurs legend, Ledley King, but arguably it is not just this which merits comparison. His composure on the field, his humility and attitude off it has also drawn comparisons to King. Publicly acknowledging his gratitude to teammates and coach for their guidance and opportunities, Caulker seems to have his feet firmly on the ground.
Starting to make his mark at Spurs and at International U21 level, there is already talk of him becoming a full England regular. Thankfully, there seems little chance of this going to his head. In attitude and ability perhaps Spurs have the heir to King’s crown.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG