It’s fair to assume that William Gallas falls under the category of experienced defender. The current Tottenham Hotspur centre-back has enjoyed spells with Chelsea and Arsenal before securing a switch, albeit controversially, to White Hart Lane back in 2010 and at first lived up to the high expectations.
Gallas was calmness personified, and after the injuries and subsequent departure of Jonathan Woodgate, the Frenchman was exactly the defender then manager Harry Redknapp required to perform alongside or in the absence of Ledley King.
His retirement saw the 35-year-old instilled as the club’s most experienced centre-back and with the likes of Younes Kaboul, Steven Caulker and summer arrival Jan Vertonghen in the squad; it was his knowledge of the game that proved vital to incoming head-coach Andre Villas-Boas.
While many a fan were shocked by his decision to hand Gallas the captain’s armband on the opening day of the season, you can understand Villas-Boas’ choice. After all, the defender had enjoyed success with Chelsea and had previously skippered Arsenal during his stint at the Emirates Stadium.
However, while Spurs needed the leadership in the heart of the back line at the beginning of the season, his age is beginning to show. Chinks in the armour of Gallas are becoming more and more evident as the season has gone on, especially against quicker and tougher forwards.
The fact that Norwich City’s Steve Morison was able to give him a rough ride during his 18 minutes on the pitch in the 1-1 draw earlier this season is just one example as to how poor Gallas has become as the campaign has worn on, and that was Spurs’ third league game of the year.
His experience and leadership qualities stood him in better stead than the likes of Caulker and Vertonghen, even if the duo have come on leaps and bounds between August and now. Nevertheless, the cracks are most certainly beginning to show.
In the recent North London derby defeat, granted Tottenham Hotspur went down to 10 men early on, it was Gallas that was supposedly the vocal point – the commander to lead his troops through the tough battle. Did the Frenchman shoulder the responsibility that was thrust upon? Five goals later and I think you have your answer.
During Thursday’s Europa League 0-0 draw with Lazio, Villas-Boas demoted his captain to the bench, handing Gareth Bale the armband in Rome. The defence may’ve been breached numerous times and if it wasn’t for the exploits of Hugo Lloris, Spurs would’ve been on the end of a humbling defeat courtesy of the Serie A giants.
But, the Portuguese tactician needs to begin thinking and preparing for the future. Tottenham Hotspur's future involves Kaboul, Vertonghen and Caulker in front of Lloris in goal, the former of which being the eldest of the quartet at only 26 years of age.
Furthermore, Belgium international Vertonghen has seen his performances drop for their usual high standards over recent weeks, with the former Ajax captain clearly suffering from fatigue and a distinct lack of consistency at being asked to play left-back and centre-back week in, week out.
Heck, even in Michael Dawson, Villas-Boas has a defender that possesses the necessary traits to commandeer the defence. Granted, continents have shifted quicker than the no nonsense defender rendering him particularly useless when it comes to the high defensive line that the 35-year-old has attempted to instil.
Yet, against West Ham United, a team renowned for their physical approach to football upon their return to the Premiership, that high defensive line is unlikely to be of much use, especially if Sam Allardyce utilises the capabilities of Andy Carroll.
As proven time and time again this season, the Frenchman struggles with strikers that bring the physical game to White Hart Lane or the stadium the opposition call home. If Villas-Boas does start Gallas against the Hammers, it will be the equivalent of a boxer’s manager throwing in the towel and admitting defeat, such us the ensuing battle that the defender would eventually lose.
With Allardyce expected to continue his approach that has proven so successful, if not difficult on the eye, it’s pivotal that Villas-Boas matches like for like. His two options, of course, could be to retain the same back five that kept a clean sheet in Italy.
This will mean Vertonghen and Caulker in front of Lloris with the Kyle’s flanking the centre-back pairing. Caulker has continuously proved his worth and showcased that he can deal with the more robust front-men this year.
If not, persist with the Belgium at left-back and draft in Dawson for his first Premier League of the campaign. It’s these types of games that he relishes and against Carroll, Villas-Boas would be sticking a defender up against, in some ways, his attacking equal.
The only downside would be his reliance on pumping the ball up field and with Jermain Defoe expected to lead the front-line in the enforced absence of Emmanuel Adebayor; it could well be disastrous. However, the powerful defender does deserve some credit – it’s a facet of the game that he is attempting to curb.
Either of the above two options would be more productive than persevering with Gallas in the heart of the defence. Yes, he has proved to be a more than adequate stand in, but it’s time to begin phasing out of first-team duties, starting with the London derby against West Ham on Sunday.