Tottenham Hotspur defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto insists he is unperturbed by the emergence of youngster Kyle Naughton due to his belief that Naughton is not a ‘real left-back’.
The French-born Cameroon international has been Spurs’ first-choice left-back since Harry Redknapp first moved Gareth Bale to the left wing – almost four years ago now.
However, 24-year-old Kyle Naughton has been working away behind the scenes at White Hart Lane and has spent the best part of three seasons out on loan at Middleborough, Leicester City, and Norwich City where he has developed into one the most exciting defensive prospects in England.
“He's not a real left-back and I don't think he has the same left foot as me, so I'm not worried about that,” Assou-Ekotto is quoted as saying in the Daily Mail.
Assou-Ekotto makes a valid point, especially in light of the fact that Naughton is right-footed and has merely been filling in at left-back.
However, in Assou-Ekotto’s absence for four months after suffering a knee injury back in mid-September, Naughton got his chance to assert himself in the Spurs first team, albeit out of his preferred position. Naughton started in Spurs’ 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday at White Hart Lane but was replaced by Assou-Ekotto in the 64th minute, as Spurs searched for an equalizer.
Whilst I am inclined to agree with the Cameroon international that going forward, he poses far more of a threat than Naughton, especially in terms of his link-up play with Bale on the left flank, I do think he should be more concerned about the competition Naughton could give him for his regular staring place.
Naughton is 3 years his junior and is certainly the more mobile of the pair. Naughton still has yet to acquire the positional understanding of the role that Assou-Ekotto certainly seems to have learned from his experience in. And whilst it’s rare that right-footed defenders play on the left, there are exceptions to the rule.
It will certainly do Assou-Ekotto no harm that he has played competitive international football, albeit somewhat sporadically, where Naughton has featured fewer than a dozen times at U21 level for England and, with the emergence of Ryan Bertrand at Chelsea, along with Luke Shaw at Southampton, and Carl Jenkinson on the right side at Arsenal as well as Martin Kelly at Liverpool. I doubt Naughton is going to feature all that much in Roy Hodgson’s plans over the next few years.
Assou-Ekotto probably doesn’t have to be too worried about fighting for his position but he should be very concerned about his own fitness because, at the moment, the only way Naughton is going to remain first-choice left-back is if Assou-Ekotto gets injured again.
image: © jtadych