Etienne Capoue – defence can be the best form of attack

Capoue vs Newcastle

Sherwood finally decided to start Etienne Capoue against Newcastle and the decision paid dividends as Spurs ran out 4-0 winners. Despite strongly worded statements against the need for holding midfielders by both the manager and assistant Les Ferdinand, Capoue was deployed to protect Tottenham’s defence in the game at St. James’ Park.

Ironically, rather than being a negative tactic, adding a defensive player finally set Spurs’ attack free and we put in our most impressive attacking performance of the season. With Capoue shielding the defence, Bentaleb, Paulinho and Dembele had the freedom to break forward, support Adebayor and create chances. This gave us the bridge between midfield and attack, and the movement up front that has been missing for much of the season.

Adebayor, Bentaleb and Paulinho will take the plaudits but Capoue provided the platform for their heroics. Lets take a look at his stats (taken from

Below is an average position map for Wednesday’s game, Capoue is circled. This demonstrates clearly his position just in front of our centre backs. It also shows how far forward our other midfielders were able to venture, and how close they got to Adebayor (number 10). In previous games he has looked isolated but not on this occasion.

Capoue vs Newcastle

Here are some numbers from the game:

Sucessful tackles Interceptions Total touches Total passes
1st Capoue 4 Capoue 9 Capoue 83 Bentaleb 54
2nd Bentaleb 3 Kaboul 3 Naughton 74 Capoue 53
3rd Kaboul 3 Lennon 2 Bentaleb 67 Adebayor 48

So the stats show that Capoue made the most tackles and, more importantly, the most interceptions by far of any Spurs player – three times the next best. He clearly played a key part in Spurs’ defensive performance. He sat back and covered, denying Newcastle space between the lines and intercepting play through the middle.

Interestingly, he also had the most touches and completed the second highest number of passes. This indicates his overall involvement in the game as the engine room of the team. He protected the back four and snuffed out Newcastle attacks, but he also won the ball back and initiated counters.

Sherwood has shown admirable flexibility to notice problems in earlier games and change tactics, even at the expense of his ideals. Different opponents call for different approaches but it will be interesting to see how the manager sets the team up in subsequent games and, when Sandro returns from injury, whether the Brazilian will replace Capoue in a similar role.

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Do you agree? Please leave your thoughts on this post in the comments section below.


3 thoughts on “Etienne Capoue – defence can be the best form of attack

  1. Pingback: Newcastle 0 Spurs 4 – finally Spurs cast off the shackles | Anything But Penalties

  2. Dick Scratcher

    I don’t think Sherwood and Ferdinand are against defensive midfielders, per se, just the idea of a footballer who is nothing other than a defensive midfielder.
    Let’s say Zinedine Zidane was cast as a defensive midfielder. Would you want him to restrict himself to breaking up attacks and giving the ball to the playmakers, or would you like him to mix it up a bit and have one of the other midfielders drop back to cover for him when he goes forward?

    1. AnythingButPenalties Post author

      That’s a good point. I agree that you don’t want to entirely restrict a player or play someone who just tackles. Capoue certainly did more as can be seen from his number of touches and passes.

      It’s more his positioning that’s important and I think you do need a player who is positioned between defence and attack to stop the opposition operating between the lines. If he can make interceptions and use effective passing to quickly launch counter attacks this is all the better for Spurs going forward.


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