Tottenham Faces A Decision At Left Back — Rose Or Assou-Ekotto?

tott Photo By Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

There have been many rumours regarding Tottenham Hotspur’s left-backs since the end of the season, with the common expectation being that Danny Rose’s future is linked with whether the club elects to keep Benoit Assou-Ekotto this summer. The Cameroon international has been tipped for a move to Fenerbache, however Spurs’ incumbent first choice at the position may be Andre Villas-Boas’ best option out of the pair.

Villas-Boas, of course, could elect to keep both players for depth purposes so that either Jan Vertonghen (a central defender) or Kyle Naughton (a right-back) is not forced into a more unnatural position in case of an injury to their first choice left-back. Furthermore, between the Premier League, the two domestic cup competitions and the Europa League, Spurs will have plenty of opportunities for both players next season.

Assou-Ekotto made 12 starts for Tottenham last season in the Premier League as well as a further three appearances off the bench, with his season disrupted due to injuries. It was the presence of the Cameroon international that allowed Danny Rose to move to Sunderland on loan and the England Under-21 international impressed, making 25 starts and two substitute appearances.

Also included in the analysis are the statistics of Assou-Ekotto’s 2011/12 season, where he made 34 starts for Tottenham. While Rose did make some appearances for Tottenham in the 2011/12 season, only three of his 11 games were starts, so last season with Sunderland provides a better statistical analysis – with a defensive comparison of the two players being the best place to begin:

def comp season

For a full breakdown of this week’s matches, check out

def comp match

Opposing wingers found both players hard to beat last season, with Rose dribbled past 0.8 times and Assou-Ekotto 0.7 times on a per match basis last season. Rose appears to be the better tackler of the pair, with his 63 tackles last season higher than Assou-Ekotto’s total on 2011/12 and the Cameroon international failing to average more than 2.0 per match since his 2010/11 season (when he averaged 2.7 tackles per game). While Assou-Ekotto did average more interceptions, no Sunderland player averaged more interceptions per game than Danny Rose.

Defensive statistics are often related to opportunity, as is highlighted by the number of clearances by both players. Rose performed slightly better than Assou-Ekotto’s 2011/12 season is this regard, however Assou-Ekotto averaged 1.7 more clearances per game last season. This opportunistic nature of defensive statistics is also seen in Assou-Ekotto’s number of blocked shots, totalling more last season in fewer appearances than he managed to block the season prior.

Full-backs also have to contribute offensively. Passing wise, Assou-Ekotto has completed more passes per game. However, that is likely linked to the relative quality of each of their teams:

pass comp jcov

While Rose completed more passes, this is likely to be possession related. Tottenham had an average possession of 53.0% last season and 56.7% the year before, however only Reading (40.7%) averaged less possession than Sunderland (43.1%) during the 2012/13 season. That said, when Sunderland did have the ball last season, 38% of their possession was on the left flank with Rose, compared to 37% on the right hand side of the field and 25% in the middle of the park, and only Craig Gardner (38.6) made more passes per game than Rose did in the Sunderland squad (the Black Cats were the only team without a player to average more than 40 completed passes per match in the Premier League).

In comparison, only Luka Modric (70.4) made more passes per match than Assou-Ekotto in the Tottenham squad during the 2011/12 season and he was sixth last season behind third place Kyle Naughton (47.6 passes per game), so the Spurs left back does tend to see a lot of the ball and distribution is therefore key. Assou-Ekotto has had more success playing the long than his colleague, although Rose did have fewer attempts – signalling a strategic difference between Sunderland and Tottenham. Nonetheless, Assou-Ekotto’s completion percentage was 16.2% higher last season, which was actually 4.2% lower than his long ball completion percentage the season prior.

The Cameroon international has had a similar success advantage when it comes to crossing. The average cross completion percentage across the top divisions in England, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the USA over the 2012/13 season was 23.26%, so where Assou-Ekotto has shown an above average cross completion percentage over the last two seasons (including well above the Premier League average cross completion percentage of 20.5% during the 2011/12 season), Rose’s accuracy was well below average last season:

jcov cross
For a full breakdown of this week’s matches, check out

Likely linked to Rose’s low cross completion percentage is the lack of numbers that Sunderland employed in the striking department for the majority of the season – usually employing just one centre forward with Stéphane Sessègnon (who is not a threat in the air) in the hole behind the striker. However, Assou-Ekotto has also created a lot more chances than Rose, more than doubling Rose’s key pass per game tally last season.

Danny Rose had an impressive season on loan at Sunderland. He was one of the club’s better players over the course of what was a largely miserable year for the Black Cats. Nonetheless, Benoit Assou-Ekotto does appear to have a statistical advantage over his colleague, especially in an attacking sense, and would deserve to be first choice for the club. If Assou-Ekotto does remain with the club this summer, the question would then be what would be best for Danny Rose’s future. The 22-year-old wants first team football, and may leave the club again on loan for the season, unless Andre Villas-Boas elects shake up the left-back position over the summer by adding another option and allowing either Rose or Assou-Ekotto (or both) leave the club on a permanent basis.

For a full breakdown of this week’s matches, check out
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