Who’s the world’s best left back? If your answer is Roberto Carlos, we are on the same page. There have been a lot of world-class right backs, Sergio Ramos, Maicon, Dani Alves and so on. How about left backs? Perhaps only Ashley Cole could achieve similar status. While Arsenal are struggling to replace Ashley Cole (for six years!), Manchester United and Tottenham appear to have enjoyed stability, at least, at their left back position. However playing regularly in a top team does not necessarily mean you’re a top player.
Patrice Evra joined during in January 2006 as Argentinan left back Gabriel Heinze was injured and needed swift cover. By the end of 2006, with compatriot Silvestre’s long-term injury, Evra had cemented his place in Manchester United’s starting lineup and have since played around fifty matches a season for the Red Devils and is now the stand-in skipper.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto was signed by then manager Martin Jol as a bright prospect in summer 2006 but it was not until his greatest admirer – Harry Redknapp – took over in season 2008-2009 that Assou-Ekotto was playing week in week out for Spurs. Even with superior physical strength compared to ordinary attacking full backs, he never established himself as a fan favorite since he surprisingly proclaimed his genuine motivation in playing football lies in his paycheck rather than passion for the sport.
Evra does own a world-class resume: Four Premiership titles, three League Cups, one Champions League title, but people seldom realize his decline in work rate. He rarely earns the upper hand over top class wingers, let alone Jamie Mackie of QPR. His attacking form is also over-shadowed by the Brazilian Da Silva twins. What makes things worse is his incapability to follow the example of his fellows, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, to step up as an influential leader at the backline. When Manchester United was on the back foot in the infamous Derby loss and the crucial match at Basel, Evra had never delivered an inspirational moment throughout.
Assou-Ekotto can concentrate on his defence duty while enjoying the partnership of the flamboyant Gareth Bale, though from time to time he looks shaky in key moments. Already reluctant to use his weaker foot, he has always failed to clear a ball promptly and showed a lack of concentration, most notably in leaving Sturridge unmarked in the box to allow Chelsea leveling the most recent derby. He can only hope this will not come back to haunt them by the end of the season, though we would guess Benoit can’t care less as long as he is paid.
While other Premier League teams are also having difficulty to field a natural and reliable left back, with Newcastle employing right back Ryan Taylor, Wigan playing midfielder David Jones, Sunderland playing right back Phil Bardsley, there are also left backs that are doing a great job for their team and are on the verge of representing their country on a regular basis.
At 27, Leighton Baines is already in his 7th season in the Premier League and is always remembered as the most hardworking player in the team as well as a good striker of the ball. In Baines, you can see the passion to play and you can feel his athleticism is the engine of the Merseyside team. When Ashley Cole retires, he will be the undoubted replacement for the three lions.
Jose Enrique seemed to be the long term solution for Liverpool. He doesn’t have the thunderbolt shots of John Arne Riise but the indefatigable Spaniard has a rich blend of strength, pace and bravery that gives confidence to the Liverpool faithful which was not found in Traore, Dossena or Insua. His occasional surging runs are good enough to produce half-chances for Suarez to convert into goals. Consistent performances for his club could easily impress Del Bosque as the ideal replacement for Joan Capdevilla.
Having written the article, we saw Assou-Ekotto outperformed Baines last night, leading Spurs to victory with a brilliant assist and a 35-yard screamer, where Baines was tortured by the speed of Lennon. Harry will be absolutely delighted if he can sustain this level of performance, but mark my words Spurs’ fans, apart from Gomes, Assou-Ekotto will ever be the most dangerous bomb.
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