Redknapp mulls over a Tottenham change at right-back
HARRY Redknapp's latest update on Tottenham s transfer activity provided very few clues, but it did provide one or two interesting insights. We are not close to doing anything really, said the manager. At the moment I couldn t say that we
By Ben Pearce
HARRY Redknapp's latest update on Tottenham's transfer activity provided very few clues, but it did provide one or two interesting insights.
"We are not close to doing anything really," said the manager. "At the moment I couldn't say that we are close to doing anything. I am going out to the World Cup, we will keep watching games, we have got some players on the list.
"We have got a good squad. I think that if we are going to push on and take that extra step and be where we are and even higher next year, then we do need to improve in one or two areas and strengthen the squad."
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'One or two areas'. A quick glance around the team shows world-class players in every spot, with international players in reserve.
Of course, Tottenham could trade up in virtually every position - Fernando Torres and Lionel Messi would have no problem getting into the Spurs team.
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However, lavish and unrealistic luxuries aside, it is hard to see any position where Tottenham really need a change in personnel. Except at right-back, that is.
Vedran Corluka is a proven defender and he has 36 international caps to prove it. However, he is a world-class centre-back who has been playing out of position for two seasons.
As he has often done at Tottenham, Redknapp stumbled upon his selection and, having found a winning formula, he stuck with it.
Now, however, as the Spurs boss ponders how to take his side on to yet another level, he may well reconsider the Croatian's position.
Corluka is solid, reliable, strong, positionally sound and good in the air - everything you would want in a defender. However, he is also restrictively one-dimensional and his top speed is 'spritely shuffle'.
The best full-backs have another side to their game - the other half of the pitch in fact.
The likes of Patrice Evra, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole all offer an attacking threat, and Gareth Bale's impact in the new year only served to highlight the value of a well-rounded full-back who is effective at both ends of the pitch, adding goals and assists to tackles and clean sheets.
Of course Redknapp knows that. This was the manager who took Johnson and Nadir Belhadj to Portsmouth and played with two of the most attack-minded full-backs in the Premier League.
And, having initially opted for the no-frills reliability of Corluka and Assou-Ekotto at Tottenham, the Spurs boss may feel that the time has come to be more adventurous, and attempt to mirror Bale's threat from full-back on the other flank.
Replacing Corluka at full-back would also give Redknapp extra cover in the centre, killing two birds with one stone.
One option would be to sign a new right-back, and Redknapp has previously expressed his admiration for Shakhtar Donetsk's Croatian Darijo Srna - a Chelsea target.
However, Redknapp also has an interesting option within his existing squad, and the manager has hinted that he will have another look at Younes Kaboul in pre-season.
It is a big U-turn from Redknapp, who initially felt that the ex-Pompey centre-back was a ropey replacement for the injured Corluka at the climax of the season.
Despite watching the French-Moroccan defender contribute to victories over both Arsenal and Chelsea, Redknapp's initial reaction was far from positive.
"Kaboul's playing at right-back, and he's no right-back to be fair to him. I do find myself shouting more than normal when he plays there," he said.
Just two weeks later, after Kaboul had impressed with aggressive, marauding performances against Bolton and Manchester City - and created Peter Crouch's pivotal goal at Eastlands - the manager had a very different message.
"Kaboul came into the team, he suddenly played four games for me and we won four games. I played him at right-back, he's never played in his proper position but he's done a job, he's got better," said Redknapp.
"Again he's a lad who, if we work hard enough with him and teach him the position... He's still raw in that position and some of his positional play is suspect at times, but he's great in the air, he's quick and he can pass it. There's no reason he can't learn the position. He did a great job against [Craig] Bellamy."
The 'again' almost certainly refers to Bale, and the extensive work that was done with him on the training ground, developing the defensive side of his game and, in particular, his positional sense.
Should Redknapp decide to give Kaboul the same treatment, the results could potentially be very exciting.
The 24-year-old is just as sizeable and strong as Corluka, he is better in the air and he is infinitely more dangerous on the front foot. If Roman Pavlyuchenko had been wearing his shooting boots against Bolton, Kaboul would have had at least one assist.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Frenchman was the equal of Bale that day, and there is no doubt that Aaron Lennon would profit from having Kaboul - or a similarly pacy, aggressive foil - playing behind him, overlapping and making decoy runs.
It remains to be seen whether Redknapp will entertain the idea of converting Kaboul into a full-back, or whether he will look at a new signing.
But, whatever happens, Kaboul's cameo performances at the end of the season, coupled with Bale's impact, have raised the bar for Tottenham's full-backs - from now on, it is not enough to simply defend.