Ekotto: Under-rated, Under Valued & One Of The Best Around
Every club has players who polarise opinions. We’ve had and still have our share. Those players who are loved and loathed in almost equal numbers. For years Jermaine Jenas was the ultimate ‘marmite’ player, though it now appears most agree he’s more ‘arsenic’ than a harmless yet disgusting yeast based spread.
Into the void steps a new object of affection and disaffection. Who better than the superbly coiffed and equally superbly monikered, Benoit Assou-Ekotto. He stands accused of concentration lapses, showboating in danger areas and not caring enough.
For me – and this will undoubtedly lead to some of you stopping reading now – Benny is the 3rd or 4th best left back in the Premier League. I firmly believe that he’s been our most consistent player for the last 18 months, being a constant reference in an ever changing back four. Like I say for some, they’ll stop reading now, probably in favour of reading about Lionel Messi arriving for a medical at Spurs Lodge. For the rest here’s why.
Let’s look at Benoit’s attitude first. This appears to be the main reason why people get on his back. I thought it was refreshingly honest to hear him say that he see’s football in London for Spurs as a job. As fans we would all like every single player to show Steve Perryman levels of dedication to the club and shirt in everything they do. That however is very much a vestige of a bygone age, it is a plain and simple fact these days that most footballers see things like Benny does, they just aren’t honest enough to come out and say it. This isn’t to say that loyal, die for the club footballers don’t exist anymore, they do, Michael Dawson is proof of that.
This raises another interesting point about his attitude. Surely a team of XI emotionally driven warriors would be terrifying to face but it also stands to reason that they would also make mistakes because of a lack of logical thought, something else that Dawson illustrates a few times a season. Every team, be it a footballing one or in your workplace needs a balance of personalities and whilst Benny’s approach may not be your own or one you particularly like, that calm detachment is every bit as vital. Besides, being detached isn’t the same as not caring. He does care, players who don’t care won’t pull a hamstring sprinting 30 yards to try and rescue a team mates mistake – as he did in the home game against West Brom at the end of the season.
A few times in every game Benny will do his trademark move that exhilarates and infuriates in equal measure. You know what I mean, he’ll rob an opponent of the ball, then seemingly taking too long will perform a drag back or an ‘Ekotto-turn’, calmly beat his man and emerge to rapturous applause. Having not seen Cyril Knowles live due to age limitations I have to rely on footage and speaking to older fans but I understand he was lauded for two things, being a proper hard man from when football was played by real men. Secondly and more relevantly, Cyril was famed for his showboating in and around his own area to the refrains of ‘Nice one Cyril’. So really BAE is just following in his footsteps, besides we’re Spurs, we’re supposed to love the sexy football. Perhaps more pertinently, I struggle to recall a time recently when he’s actually been caught out. Keep entertaining Benny, it’s what football’s all about.
One criticism of Assou-Ekotto that I will relate to is a lack of concentration particularly against the smaller teams, although a number of his team mates also suffer from this, so it seems harsh to single him out, especially as he has evidently improved in this over the last couple of years. The flip side to this is that Benoit is never better than when put up against the big boys. Even in his early days when I had my doubts about him I recall him coming up against Cristiano Ronaldo and keeping him quiet every time. Considering the only other left back who can be reliably counted on to stifle the Portugese winker is Ashley Cole, I think it’s churlish to deny that Benny is a good player.
Distribution is one area of his game that cries out for consistency. He can at times hit crossfield balls or crosses with pinpoint accuracy to devastating effect, but at occasionally he plays balls that have you questioning which sport he thinks he’s playing. I’ve never pretended he was perfect. I’m sure this is one area that Redknapp and the coaching staff continue to work with him on. Redknapp it appears is a firm fan of Benoit Assou-Ekotto. I don’t recall the last time we were linked with a left back, that suggests that Harry is happy with the man with the hair. Going back to Benny’s attitude, I think it’s telling that Redknapp clearly rates him. Harry is well known to like his solid pro’s who get their heads down and get their job done. I’d suggest that no matter how Benny approaches his job, he gets it done.
Gareth Bale’s emergence as a left wing force appears to have helped Benoit improve his game also. Previously playing behind Modric or Kranjcar who drift inside, Assou-Ekotto was often relied upon to offer width adding more responsibility and of course frequently leaving our left side vulnerable to counter attack. Bale can more often be found hugging the touchline meaning that BAE is not required to push up the pitch so often, this has allowed him to concentrate on the defensive side of his game and maintain positional discipline. The breakthrough of Danny Rose at the end of the last season can also only be a good thing for Benny. One thing that he’s really missed is strong competition. He’s pretty much figured whenever fit for almost two years, testament to his physical conditioning and mentality but a seeming guaranteed slot can lead to complacency. Benoit will now know that Rose is on his tail and will push him all the way to keep his starting spot. It may be just a job but he’s a professional and will want to maintain superiority over the young upstart. Our Cameroonian left back could be about to go from strength to strength.
Much of the criticism of Benoit appears to stem from the Alan Hansen led media belief that he’s not all that. Sir Alex Ferguson and his kids will tell you how much Hansen knows. In my opinion only Manchester United, Chelsea and maybe Newcastle don’t wish that their left back was BAE. Or as good as him at least.
Submitted by Stuart Watts of THFC1882
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