It only took 30 minutes of the 2-2 draw with Newcastoe United for Ledley King to pull up with another muscle strain. The 31-year-olds inability to train on a daily basis is beginning to catch up on him and after years of playing with dodgy knees, King now risks a series of muscular problems due to a lack of training.
Last season, the Spurs man missed a majority of the season with a groin problem and after starting five successive games, yesterday’s abductor muscle strain will now see King out for ‘a while’ as Harry Redknapp so delicately put it. Without Michael Dawson until December, at the earliest, William Gallas still suffering from calf problems, and 90 minutes of football under his belt for the campaign, and now King’s problem, the mantle of leading the back line has fallen to Younes Kaboul.
The Frenchman and Cameroonian Sebastien are now the only two recognised centre-backs at Spurs and while Tom Huddlestone and Vedran Corluka can both play there if need be, both are currently sidelined at this point in time. This leaves the aforementioned duo with the unlikely task of protecting Brad Friedel in goal while marshalling Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker either side of them.
With Bassong, many are fearful of his erratic displays in the back four when they see his name on the teamsheet. Despite an hugely successful season partnership Dawson on the way to a top four finish, emphatically securing all three points against Liverpool on the first game of the 09/10 season, the former Newcastle centre-halve has never managed to re-capture the form that warranted an £8m price-tag. Finding himself on the bench more than in the starting XI, a loss of confidence, and with it form, has seen Bassong fall down the pecking order at Spurs.
To be fair to the player, he was unfairly dropped in favour of King at the drop of a hat despite some impressive performances in defence for Spurs. But, when the opportunity to really make a claim for starting spot, he has looked cumbersome, and often clumsy, when asked to start. Against Hearts and PAOK on the Europa League, he looked out of his depth despite both teams being arguably Championship standard at best.
If Spurs can secure the signing of Gary Cahill in January, or any other defender for that matter, chances are Bassong will be shipped out to QPR in the same window, a move that came close to fruition in the summer only for Spurs to pull the plug at the last minute after failing to land Cahill. Without a decent, game reading defender alongside him, Bassong looks a shade of the player that Spurs first signed back in 2009 but until 2012 rolls around, Redknapp will have to make do with the Cameroon international, until Gallas or King are fit once again anyway.
This leaves Kaboul as the man to marshal the back line and it is time for the former Auxerre trainee to step his game up. When partnered with King or Gallas, the French international has looked assured and, at times, unbeatable at the back. But, when left to control the defence, much the same as Dawson, Kaboul suddenly looks out of depth and unable to shoulder the responsibility that has been forced upon him.
Nonetheless, when King limped off on Sunday, it is exactly the scenario that the two-time Spurs man found himself in. And credit where credit is due, he did a superb job when called upon despite looking apprehensive to push the line-up, leaving room between the defence and midfield. Against Arsenal two weeks ago, he snuffed out every aerial attack that was sent Spurs way and it showcased his ability in the air, which is perhaps better than even Dawson in that respect.
But is he really ready to become the lynchpin in the Spurs defence? To an extent, yes. He really needs to now with the aforementioned injury crisis at the back but even before then, he is improving with every passing game. Naturally, if he could be partnered with King or Gallas week-in, week-out then that would be the ideal scenario but with both injured, it is time for him to put the experience he gained from the respective duo and put it to the test.
Many are confident that he is set to become Spurs’ number one centre-back regardless of injuries and you would be hard pressed to find a defender with all the attributes, physically anyway, to better him. Mentally, however, some work is needed but at 25-years-old, that will come with time. Nevertheless, Redknapp appears confident enough to start him, having spent time with him during his stint at Portsmouth, and until at least one of either King or Gallas is fit once more, this could be the time to see Kaboul live up to his unprecedented potential that he was labelled with when he first signed for Spurs.