Would signing Steven Caulker improve Tottenham's back-four?

With Steven Caulker linked with a return to Tottenham we analyse the stats. Would he really be an improvement on the club's current back-four?

Cardiff centre-back Steven Caulker could be making a surprise return to White Hart Lane, according to a report in the Mirror.

The central defender was sold to the Bluebirds for £9 million last summer, but after suffering relegation from the top flight the Welsh club are reported to be £160m in debt.

The 22-year-old is expected to be sold in order to ease the club’s financial deficit and Spurs, of course, have the option of taking him back.

Caulker earned rave reviews during his first season with the Bluebirds and recently appointed manager, Mauricio Pochettino, could be interested in his services.

The Argentinian head coach has a proven track record of working with young English talent and the chance to sign the Cardiff-man on the cheap may appeal to him.

Here we compare Caulker to Tottenham’s current first team options. Is he good enough to break into the Lilywhite’s starting eleven? (Considering Michael Dawson looks to be leaving the Lane, he has been disregarded from this article).

Caulker captained Cardiff throughout the recent campaign, failing to miss a single Premier League match. He featured significantly more often than both Vlad Chiriches and Jan Vertonghen, who accumulated 17 and 23 appearances, respectively.

In terms of defensive duties, the statistics provide a mixed bag of results. Caulker proved inferior in the tackle and he contributed fewer interceptions per match, yet he registered almost twice as many clearances when compared to the Spurs duo.

When retaining possession in the defensive third, again, Caulker falls short. In general he emerges as the least prolific of the three players, with Vlad Chiriches seemingly on top.

  TeamPosTotal Tackle / appsTotal Clearance / appsInterception Won / appsPoss Won Def 3rd / appsFouls / appsAppsMins
Steven Caulker Cardiff DF 1.16 8.61 1.24 2.18 0.18 38 3,420
Jan Vertonghen Spurs DF 1.39 4.61 1.83 3.57 0.52 23 2,004
Vlad Chiriches Spurs DF 2.18 4.35 2.29 4.53 0.76 17 1,412

However, in terms of aerial dominance, Caulker prevails. On average, he has won 3.79 headers per appearance this season; a total superior to both Chiriches and Vertonghen. He’s also been guilty of the fewest defensive errors.

The Englishman would offer a superior force in the air and this trait would certainly benefit the Lilywhites, at both ends of the pitch.

In fact, his contribution in the attacking third proved vital for Cardiff last season. He scored an impressive five goals as the Bluebirds battled with relegation, netting once every 684 minutes. He created a further nine chances for his teammates; a total equal only to Vertonghen’s efforts.

  Aerial Won / appsError Lead To ShotPass Accuracy (%)Goalsmins / GoalsTotal Att Assist
Steven Caulker 3.79 0 74.43 5 684.00 9
Jan Vertonghen 2.48 0 82.90 0 0 9
Vlad Chiriches 1.47 1 88.86 1 1,412.00 5

Caulker’s passing ability stands out like a sore thumb; it is significantly lower than that of Spurs’ current options. With an accuracy of 74%, compared to the 83% and 89% average of his potential teammates, the Englishman will have his work cut out in training.

Is the 22-year-old an upgrade on Tottenham’s current options? Defensively, no.

Chiriches and Vertonghen have the edge in terms of dependability at the back, as the statistics suggest. Caulker would perhaps offer more in the attacking third, but this advantage comes down to his ability in the air.

Based on the above evidence, the Cardiff-man would be a decent addition to the squad as a whole, but he would be required to step up his game in order to challenge for a place in Mauricio Pochettino’s starting eleven.

Stats aside, do you believe Caulker would improve the current Spurs back-four?

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