Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Decline of Bassong at Tottenham

Sebastien Bassong apologised to his colleagues for the elementary error which led to the free-kick from which Rubin Kazan scored the only goal in the Europa League match on Thursday evening and saw Spurs lose their unbeaten record.  The defeat meant that Tottenham slipped from top of the Group A to third place and they will need to defeat the new leaders, PAOK Salonika, in their next match to give themselves a chance of qualification to the knock-out stages as winners of the group.

Sebastien Bassong Apologises for His Mistake

Sebastien Bassong
Ahead of the Europa League in Russia, there was a poignant headline in the London Evening Standard, 
'It Hurts that my Tottenham Career is nearly over.'   
 (Read the full story here)

The headline screamed all that has been wrong with Sebastien Bassong over the past year at Spurs.  He has lost confidence and has clearly given up.  It had all started so well at White Hart Lane for Bassong who joined Spurs in the summer of 2009, following Newcastle United's relegation.  Bassong had been one of the few players to come out of that season with some credit in what had been a terrible year for the club.  His centre back partner, Fabricio Coloccini, had been widely criticised but now as Bassong looks troubled, Coloccini is receiving the plaudits as Newcastle maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

Bassong made his Premier League debut for Tottenham in their opening day win over Liverpool at White Hart Lane, heading the winning goal from a corner and becoming the tenth Tottenham player to score on their debut in the Premier League.  That season he went on to make 28 League appearances and was comfortable in his partnership with the other centre backs, Michael Dawson, Ledley King and Younes Kaboul, as the team finally broke in to the top four and achieved their goal of Champions League football.  He was ahead of Kaboul and only lost his place when King returned for the final few games of the season.

The following year, King and Dawson started as first choice but when they were injured early in the new season, Bassong returned to the team and was involved in of the early part of the Champions League campaign, scoring the first goal in Berne as Spurs recovered from a three goal deficit in the Qualifying Round.  The arrival of William Gallas increased competition for places and Bassong was no longer guaranteed a starting place or of stepping in when someone was injured.  This uncertainty seemed to drain his confidence and when called upon it affected his performances and saw him more often among the substitutes as Dawson, Gallas and Kaboul claimed their places.  In his performance at Blackpool as Tottenham looked to push on towards a second successive Champions League place, his uncertainty was particularly evident as a poor team performance saw Spurs lose 1 - 3.  Returning to the side, Bassong gave away an early and unnecessary penalty to set Blackpool on their way.

Bassong's appearances had been greatly reduced in that second season and there was talk of a possible transfer away from White Hart Lane.  In fact, at the end of August, he appears to have been only a signature away from joining newly promoted Queen's Park Rangers but Tottenham's inability to reach agreement with Bolton Wanderers over the signing of Gary Cahill, saw them decide against his transfer and retain him as cover at Spurs.

Sebastien Bassong comes across as a genuine fellow, he's not brash and when he's relaxed he has a smile on his face and appears very pleasant.  However, on the pitch, he looks as if he's carrying all the cares of the world on his shoulders, he looks tense, nervous, unsure of what to do and so afraid of making a mistake that it affects his judgement and all round play.

Ironically, one of the positives surrounding the young players who have appeared in the Europa League team, has been their confidence and self-belief which belies their tender years.  They have not been phased by the thought that they are playing in the first team or that it's an important European competition or that they're playing with experienced Premier League players and internationals or that that their opponents are internationals.  They have set aside all such concerns and performed admirably with very satisfactory results.

However, Bassong has looked so on edge in his manner and in his play.  Even as captain, he seemed unsure what decision to take when he won the toss.  In the matches he's played, this has led to errors in his passing, putting team mates under pressure with a misdirected pass or one played too short.  Clearances have given the ball back to opponents and maintained the pressure on the Spurs defence. Even basic areas of his game have been affected - his first touch putting him under pressure as happened in the home game against Rubin Kazan.  As the visitors increased their attacking intent in the second half, a ball was passed back to him but he somehow stood on it and was immediately under pressure but managed to rescue the situation with the help of a colleague.

The inevitable mistake from which he couldn't recover occurred in Russia.  As the under-strength  team held out in the second half against the increasing threat of Rubin Kazan, Gallas managed to head a dangerous cross to Bassong who was alone in the centre of the Tottenham area.  He took a touch and then a second but this one was too strong, resulting in the ball getting away from him and as he dived in to retrieve the situation, he brought down the home player.  He was booked and Rubin Kazin scored the only goal from the free-kick.  It was a needless free-kick to concede and Spurs paid dearly for Basson's mistake.  After the game, Bassong apologised to the team but it has been a mistake waiting to happen for some time.  In his general play in Russia, playing beside the experienced Gallas, he had appeared more confident than on some previous occasions but his mistake took away from his overall performance as did a later misjudgement which played young Dean Parrett into trouble and could easily have led to another goal.

Bassong has taken on a persona similar to Heurelho Gomes when he is not playing well.  He seems to have accepted that his time with Spurs is over and is waiting to move on during the transfer window in January.  This attitude is having a telling affect on his play and for a player who started his career at Tottenham in such a positive manner, it is sad to see him so out of sorts with his football and so uncertain and lacking in confidence.  It would appear that Bassong is now among a number of players who have lost the confidence of the manager with little future for them at the club.  Some, like Alan Hutton and Robbie Keane have already moved on, others like David Bentley and Jermaine Jenas have gone out on loan while Bassong and Gomes remain, waiting for their time to come to depart through the door marked 'Exit'.


No comments:

Post a Comment