Spurs should reduce its reliance on Ledley King

ledleyking_468x702Tottenham legend Ledley King had a horror of a game against Arsenal. While the three goals weren’t “his fault,” King was involved in each of them and looked rusty. And his prefomance raises the question should King’s place in the starting 11 be so automatic?

King has been at Spurs his entire 11 year career and has over 200 appearances and is rightly adored by fans and the team. But over the last few years chronic knee problems – he has no cartilage in his knees – prevents him from playing more that once a week – either in midweek games or in training. What has been so remarkable about King over the last year is how sharp he has looked, despite not participating in training. Harry Redknapp even called him a “freak,” for looking so sharp without any training. He has played so well that Fabio Cappello tried to call him up for England, leading to protestations from Redknapp last year.

But with no time on the training ground is King really as sharp as he once was?

Against Arsenal he looked a half step late. On the first goal, Van Persie caught him off guard and King was unable to get goalside. On the Fabregas goal, King was the last defender and his badly timed lunge allowed the Spaniard a free path to goal. The third goal was a bit of a fluke as King and Gomes both just missed the ball. None of these is a criminal defense and one game should not be used to judge a player as accomplished as King.

All defenders do have a bad day now and again. But Spurs have started to concede a sizeable number of goals. They have actually conceded more goals this year than they did at the same point last year, despite last year’s dreadful start. King is definitely not to blame for this, as Spurs have had at times a desperate situation at centerback. To start the season King and Woodgate were seen as top pairing, with Dawson and Bassong as cover. But injuries to Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson left Tottenham with only two starting centerbacks – King and new arrival Sebastian Bassong from Newcastle. King’s knee problem and an injury to Bassong, left Spurs putting Tom Huddlestone and Vedran Corluka.

Now that Woodgate and Dawson are returning – and assuming Bassong returns in a month from his injury – perhaps it’s time to reconsider King’s inclusion in the top defensive pairing. One of the major problems with King’s inability to train is that it also inhibits the development of a solid understanding and partnership with the other first choice centerback. It is no wonder why the most consistent teams have a consistent pairing in the back – Terry and Carvalho, Ferdinand and Vidic, Carragher and Skrtel, this year Gallas and Vermaelan. Spurs have been unable to solidify that sort of defensive partnership, due to injuries, but also due to King’s inability to practice and the frequency with which he misses games.

Perhaps when the squad is fully fit, Harry should seek to establish a top defensive pairing that does not include King. It would most likely be Woodgate with Bassong or Dawson, leaving King as the automatic #3 should anyone go down. This would allow Spurs to develop a solid defensive partnership and would reduce the strain placed on King. Even playing once a week is becoming a stretch and a strain for him. Leaving him in reserve would slightly reduce the number of games he plays a season, leaving him fresher and healthier when he is called upon.

At 29 King still has many great years left. But for King to have many more productive years, Spurs will have to reduce their reliance on him and gradually reduce his workload. This will be good both for Spurs and for King.


4 Responses

  1. Project King as I call it has to have an end date. In the Arsenal game Ledley had his worst game for a long time and it showed up his vunerabilities. His pace can be a problem against the top sides and he is always likely to pull up. Furthermore because of his lack of training he can be weak at marking just after an opposition changes it striker. His best pairing is with Dawson because they used to work together a lot but i feel Daws and Woody would be a better bet for the future.

  2. Wait, I cannot fathom it being so srtiaghtfoarwrd.

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