Gareth Bale has become a world-class player at Tottenham Hotspur in recent times with some scintillating displays in left wing and some wonderful goals as a number 10. The Spurs ace is now regarded as one of the finest in world football. His overall development over the years and his young age means that there is much more to come from the Welsh wizard. The same cannot be said of Tottenham’s left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto, as his role has been pretty much limited this season.
One can argue that Assou-Ekotto had a huge role Gareth Bale’s development. Assou-Ekotto was the man who made left-back spot his own ahead of the former Southampton youngster, who carried a greater reputation and expectation into Premier League. Even though Gareth Bale witnessed losses one after the other during his early days, it was the form of Assou-Ekotto which restricted more action for the Welsh youngster. Assou-Ekotto was in peak form during that time, and as a result the call up to his national team came after impressing the critics and pundits with some of his unorthodox means.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto had faced some stiff competition from South Korean Lee Young-Pyo, Brazilian Gilberto and Welshman Gareth Bale for his preferred left-back role. It was a battle between Lee Young-Pyo and Assou-Ekotto at the start as highly-rated youngsters Gareth Bale and fellow Welsh wing-back Chris Gunter had to wait for their turns as left-back slot remained problematic for Spurs till 2008-09 season. South Korean Lee Young-Pyo was the preferred choice till then from 2005, but his appearances were restricted as the Cameroon International blossomed into a one of a kind left-back.
In the next four seasons, Assou-Ekotto, who is fondly known as Benny became the first-choice left-back and he rose into one of the best in English Premier League during that time. His consistent displays gave more assurance to the head coach and his ability on the ball was a welcome change to the general description of a left-back. Assou-Ekotto always did the unthinkable when pinned to his back in a tight corner, showed pure skill and mental toughness to take the ball out of trouble in an unorthodox way to many. Fans saw a welcome change in Spurs defending, they witnessed some trickery and skills where they used to witness putting the ball into the stands. Benoit Assou-Ekotto become a fan favorite in no time with his the stellar displays from the left-back.
Spurs have produced two world-class players in Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, to an extent Assou-Ekotto’s presence helped them to further heights. Gareth Bale was shifted to left side of the midfield due to the form of irreplaceable Assou-Ekotto and an injury to then left midfielder Luka Modric. If one takes a closer look at both the world-class players (Luka Modric and Gareth Bale) development at Spurs, one can see that Assou-Ekotto has played a crucial role in it. Assou-Ekotto provided an option to play little cheeky one-two’s which helped others to get out of trouble with relative ease. Those neat triangles were a trademark of Tottenham’s playing style then. Former manager Harry Redknapp was an advocate of free-flowing football and Assou-Ekotto established himself while helping his compatriots to run riot at the opposition.
Assou-Ekotto’s openness and frankness are something which was noticed by the fans. He didn’t held back his opinions when Luka Modric Saga was going on at Spurs. He considered football just as a job and a means to earn money. He even told that a football player can be expected to move to a new club if his parent club fails to match other teams high wage offers. His direct approach might not have went well in all quarters but Assou-Ekotto didn’t care much about it as he continued his normal routine even after publicly stating his views on a controversial matter.
Assou-Ekotto’s community involvement is a rare thing in today’s world. He tried to remain ‘always honest’ and his opinions were frank which expressed his views without any hidden agenda. Assou-Ekotto often walks with Tottenham supporters to the stadium before home matches as he shares a close camaraderie with Lillywhites and a great sense of connection to Tottenham. He was very active after the London riots to help Tottenham community back to normal and even urged other players to provide a helping hand to their cause.
The outspoken footballer has been a consistent player at Spurs in the past. However, the managerial changes have affected his performance. Many people thought that he was comfortable on the ball and he will succeed in Andre Villas Boas system. So far he has been unable to cope with the demands of the high line and recycling possession methodologies. His passing accuracy rate is a just 74% and is the lowest among the Tottenham outfield players. Even though he is the only natural left-back in the squad, Kyle Naughton and Jan Vertonghen got the nod above him in his preferred position on many occasions.
Assou-Ekkotto doesn’t possess the express pace modern day full-backs have in their arsenal. Once the opposition player gets past him it is unlikely that he will make amends for it. Something which helps Kyle Walker time and again. Assou-Ekkotto attempts take on’s in more dangerous areas and this approach wont be that effective in a high line defensive system. Out of 12 take on’s, 5 has failed so far that means it puts team under more pressure in dangerous areas and something which is avoidable when an easier option is available. His strength under previous regime is proving out to be his weak point in the new system.
As things progress it looks unlikely that Benoit Assou-Ekkotto has a major role in Andre Villas Boas’ Spurs. Villas Boas is a preacher of possession-based football and Assou-Ekkotto’s lack of passing accuracy and pace will be an area of concern for the Spurs think tank. The progress of Danny Rose into a Premier League full-back status gives more hope for the future even if Spurs decides not to opt for a replacement in transfer market. But in all likelihood, the 29-year-old Cameroon international is looking likely to bid adieu to White Hart Lane this summer. In last two seasons Assou-Ekotto has made 45 and 40 appearances respectively whereas this season he hasn’t even made half the number with other players are urged to take his position in the line-up.
Newly rich, french promotion hopefuls A S Monaco are rumored to be interested in the left-back and it looks likely that Spurs will accept any decent bid to move on to a new era. Assou-Ekkotto’s future is looking dim at Spurs and it will be good for both parties if he can find a suitable club at this time in his career. As a honest person Assou-Ekkotto will realize this more than anyone, but it remains to be seen what will be the approach of Daniel Levy!