Kyle Naughton got his first 90 minutes in the Premier League for Spurs against Reading on Sunday in a 3-1 win.
The former Sheffield United man, who arrived at the Lane in 2009 with Kyle Walker, has been out on loan as many times as he has featured in a Spurs shirt since then. Whilst at the Canaries last season, he played as a full back on both sides, proving that he is a versatile defender at the top level.
So, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto out of the line-up for the next 4 weeks and last season’s backup Danny Rose on loan at Sunderland, Kyle Naughton got his chance at Reading.
He showed some promising signs that he is more than up to the job of standing in for Benni.
Kyle Naughton going forward
The full backs in Andre Villas-Boas’ system are important to get forward and provide width. Kyle Walker was busy getting up the touchline on the right hand side, but Kyle Naughton was also making inroads down the left.
Walker received the ball 45 times as Spurs attacked down the right 39% of the time and he created Gareth Bale’s goal from a cut back. Over on the left, Kyle Naughton received 44 passes as he too got forward in support of Gareth Bale, as Spurs went 30% of the time down his flank.
Naughton kept good width as Gareth Bale frequently moved inside, allowing him to receive the ball from switches in play from Moussa Dembele and Sandro.
As a result he was able to get in to several crossing situations, completing one of his three attempts to put the ball in the box. His two efforts from advanced positions on the left side were unsuccessful, but maybe with a bigger target man than Jermain Defoe he would have faired better.
He was able to create chances though; three in the game, which was only bettered by Aaron Lennon’s four according to WhoScored.com.
His most notable set-up play was his excellent lofted pass down the middle. Jermain Defoe brought it down over his shoulder, before curling it just past the post with the outside of his right foot.
Kyle Naughton passing
Kyle Naughton had an average pass completion rate of 75% whilst at Norwich last season. At Reading on Sunday he did well on the ball, completing 82% of his 55 passes.
He was comfortable moving the ball back inside in order to retain possession, keeping the ball is a big part of AVB’s philosophy. He also got it forward to Sandro and Moussa Dembele at the base of the midfield. The Belgian was Naughton’s top target, with 13 of his passes headed in Dembele’s direction.
Where he struggled was playing long balls forward and straight up the flank.
If we take a look at those long passes in more detail, we can see that Kyle Naughton had success when moving the ball square in order to switch play quickly. This is very much a feature of Andre Villas-Boas teams in order to move the point of attack when trying to break an opposition down.
Where Kyle Naughton struggled was playing vertical balls forward down the left flank. All four of his attempted passes were unsuccessful.
Other than these stray long balls, his short passing game was good and something that will have pleased Andre Villas-Boas.
Kyle Naughton defending
On what was a quieter than usual day for the Spurs defence, Kyle Naughton did well on the whole.
Reading identified him as a potential weakness and focussed 51% of their attacks down Naughton’s flank according to WhoScored.com.
As a result of this, he had some trouble with Garath McCleary in the first half, conceding two fouls when the Reading man tried to dribble past him.
In the second half he was more assured and dealt with the threat of McCleary much better until the last 5 minutes.
Maybe Naughton wasn’t quite match fit to go the full 90 minutes, but with 5 to play, McCleary was able to get around him in order to centre the ball. Brad Friedel pushed it in to the path of Adam Le Fondre who saw his shot blocked by William Gallas.
Then on 90 minutes, Kyle Naughton was caught up-field from a Spurs attack which had broken down. Mikele Liegertwood’s saw the space and played a long ball over the top, which was collected by Noel Hunt in behind the left back. Hunt found Le Fondre who crossed for Hal Robson-Kanu to score.
The goal wasn’t entirely Naughton’s fault, as Kyle Walker had also gone forward and was unable to get back goal side of Hal Robson-Kanu. However, it also illustrated the perils of Andre Villas-Boas liking his full backs to push on with both caught out of position.
There were plenty of positives in Naughton’s defensive display though.
He was very good in the air, winning 5 of his 7 aerial duels. He was also good under pressure, successfully finding a team-mate or touch with 6 of his 7 attempted clearances.
Overall, it was a good display from Kyle Naughton for his first full 90 minutes for Spurs in the Premier League.
Having been on-loan at Middlesbrough and Leicester in the Championship, spending last season with Norwich gained him valuable playing time in the Premier League.
In the summer Kyle Naughton was rewarded with a new 4-year deal, which highlighted his progress and the fact that Andre Villas-Boas sees a future for him at the Lane. His speed and versatility to play both full back roles obviously appeal to AVB and his system, which requires quick and mobile defenders who are comfortable with the ball.
Andre Villas-Boas has also been tasked with making the squad younger and at 23 years old, Kyle Naughton fits the bill. He’s not going to oust Benni this season, but the signs from his outing at Reading are promising enough that we have good cover for the next few weeks.