Did Tottenham limit Etienne Capoue’s talent by forcing him to play a defensive role?

Etienne Capoue has excelled since leaving Tottenham to sign for Watford.

Capoue has been central to Watford’s solid start to their return to the Premier League, having left Tottenham over the summer to make the short journey to Hertfordshire.

The French midfielder was always expected to leave White Hart Lane over the summer, after his career ended with just 36 games played for Spurs in two years.

He failed to have an impact with Tottenham, and having played so well for Watford in just five games, it appears as if the reasons for his struggles with Spurs have become known.

When playing with Tottenham, Capoue was signed as a holding player, and he almost exclusively was utilised as a shielder of the defence, who would do little work except protect the back-line.

It was a job he could do well, but with little fanfare, and it limited many of his most impressive strengths.

Since moving to Watford, Capoue has been given free rein in the midfield, playing alongside Valon Behrami in the holding role.

With Behrami always sitting deep, Capoue is allowed to move forward and attack, and he has shown himself to be one of the best box-to-box midfielders ever seen in at Vicarage Road.

Comparing his statistics from last season to this one show a player galvanised by his new role, and enjoying the freedom he has been given to support attacks.

  SeasonShots per GameKey Passes per GameDribbles per GameTackles per GameInterceptions per GameAerials Won per Game
Etienne Capoue 2014-2015 0.6 0.3 1 2.4 2.8 0.8
Etienne Capoue 2015-2016 1.6 1 3 3 3.6 1.2

Not only is Capoue a far better attacking player this season than last term, his ability to move further up the pitch also means he can better utilise his defensive strengths in a high-pressing system.

He has the physical make-up of a player destined to be a box-to-box midfielder, and sitting deep for Spurs meant that so many of his skills were wasted at White Hart Lane.

This season, Capoue has started as one of the key men in the Watford side, completing 90 minutes in four of the five games played, and playing a central role in their three home clean sheets.

Whilst he has been praised for his work as a holding player at Vicarage Road, it has been his newfound freedom that has seen Capoue truly excel, and it appears as if Tottenham’s desire to force Capoue into a defensive role was behind his poor stay in North London.

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