Etienne Capoue has been strongly linked with a move to Spurs after the Toulouse president hinted that he will be coming to White Hart Lane.
If it comes off, the transfer would see us sign another big, strong, powerful player who can operate in different positions.
But what would the 25 year old bring to Spurs, and more importantly, where would he fit in?
Etienne Capoue the defensive midfielder
Etienne Capoue first and foremost is the rock at the heart of the Toulouse midfield.
Alain Casanova lines his side up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Capoue sitting in-between the back four and the midfield. He is tasked with screening the defence and does an excellent job of winning the ball back through strong tackling, whilst also reading the game excellently and being strong in the air.
What’s more, when others have the ball, he is always available for a pass in the defensive third.
That doesn’t mean he is a traditional defensive midfielder who then gives a short pass to other playmakers to go to work. From here he is able to be very aggressive with moving the ball forward whether it be by passing or dribbling.
When passing, there are two distinct trends.
Firstly, the ball can be played quickly out wide, as we can see from the long distribution lines out to the flanks in the illustrations below. This is something that will benefit our use of wide forwards this season if we are to play a 4-3-3.
Secondly, he also plays much longer, more vertical passes through the inside channels towards the penalty area. As looked at in “How Roberto Soldado will change Spurs” this is something that would benefit the Spaniard who plays high up looking for through balls.
These longer passes are something that will appeal to Andre Villas-Boas given his love of ‘quick transitions’ that he talks about in the book “Special Too”
Last season we saw our head coach use Tom Huddlestone as a sort of ‘emergency quarterback.’ Huddlestone would come on and change games with his ability to move the ball accurately over distance. The problem for Tom was his mobility and the defensive side of his game. In Etienne Capoue, that will not be a problem and someone that AVB can use from the start of the match.
But it’s not just moving play quickly upfield through passing that Etienne Capoue would bring to Spurs. The Frenchman can also transition the ball forward through powerful dribble-drives, very much like Moussa Dembele.
The Belgian uses his sizeable frame to shield the ball from defenders as he goes by them and Capoue is very similar. This makes him a duel threat to move play quickly from the defensive to attacking phase.
Etienne Capoue the centre back
Like other players Andre Vilas-Boas has signed, Etienne Capoue can operate in a number of positions. The Portuguese head coach based his Porto side on hybrid players that could start or switch roles during the game and the Frenchman fits that bill. He not only plays as a defensive midfielder, but also as a centre back.
His excellent tackling and intercepting ability allow him to do this, but his strength in the air aids him in seamlessly dropping in to the back four.
Playing as a central defender doesn’t hinder his natural play to move the ball forward though. At the back end of last season, he had a run of games where he filled in at centre back and still looked to move the ball quickly wide or forward.
What’s more, it didn’t slow down his dribbling either, which was still present despite his move in to a centre back role.
We saw last season how Andre Villas-Boas used Jan Vertonghen to move the ball forward through long passing, whilst also stepping out of defence like an old school Libero.
Jan naturally lines up to the left of the centre back pairing, Etienne Capoue plays to the right, thus offering a twin-pronged partnership.
What Etienne Capoue would bring to Spurs
Etienne Capoue would be a nice addition, providing another versatile player to fit in to AVB’s side.
He can operate as both a defensive midfielder and a centre back, but his ability to move the ball forward quickly would benefit the side if we’re moving to a 4-3-3.
Andre Villas-Boas is a big admirer or Pep Guardiola. Therefore, another option would be to play Capoue in a similar fashion to how Pep used Sergio Busquets at Barcelona. This would allow us to send our full backs forward to assist in the attack, whilst Capoue would drop in to form a three man central defence.
After a season where Daniel Levy wasn’t seen to be heavily backing his head coach, this term he is definitely going after the targets that AVB needs to play his system. Etienne Capoue would certainly fit the bill.