Despite being able to play as a central defender, Tottenham have been wrong to rely on Etienne Capoue in that position.
Spurs signed the 25 year old Frenchman in the summer as a midfielder. His time at Toulouse had included appearances as a central defender, but it’s certainly not his best position. The place where he caught the eye of Premier League clubs and the French national team was in midfield.
He is only able to play in central defense as much as say Michael Carrick who has filled in there in there in the past or Alex Song who used to for Arsenal when they were short on injuries. Capoue can fill in there, but to play him there against the very best like Luis Suarez and then criticize him for a poor performance is harsh.
Capoue’s time in central defense for Toulouse was when he was up against players of (with all due respect) a far lower quality to those that the likes of Liverpool possess.
So although he is capable of being a center back, I find it odd that the now fired Andre Villas-Boas preferred him in that position rather than his holding midfield. Not only was he playing Capoue out of his preferred position, but he did so just after returning from an injury in his first season in English football.
In holding midfield Capoue shined with Toulouse. His ability to hold and occasionally break forward with power is something that he can’t express in defense. The passing ability that he has was evident with Spurs again early on this season before his injury, but again it’s nowhere near as useful in defense as it was when he was with Toulouse as their main man in midfield. It must be stressed that Capoue has good defensive qualities, but his technical ability to keep possession and help start attacks from deep positions seems to have been misjudged by Villas-Boas.
On this occasion Spurs had injuries meaning Capoue may have been forced to play in defense, but it would be strange to see that become a trend.
Whoever comes in next for Spurs as there new manager would be wise to recognize that Capoue is far, far more suited to a defensive midfield role than a defender. Of course the problem may be for Capoue that with so many midfielders and recent acquisitions that he may have a hard time finding a regular spot any time soon.