Where are Étienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli? It’s certainly a question on many Spurs fans’ lips. The Frenchmen have rarely featured lately. Especially Capoue, whose last game was in January, similarly Stambouli has been playing a minor role as a substitute.
The meteoric rise of Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb has come at the expense of Stambouli and Capoue. The dynamic duo has proven their capability and maturity regardless of their lack of notability and experience. Mauricio Pochettino fully supports the duo, but is he right to exclude Capoue and Stambouli? On the one hand, Mason and Bentaleb have become firm fan favourites through their grit and determination and, most importantly, because they are an effective pair together. On the other, Bentaleb is only 20 and Mason, despite being four years older, has had his game time severely limited by injury. This leads to errors that more seasoned professionals like Capoue and Stambouli would not make; but, for these Frenchmen to get pushed out of the team in the first place suggests they were ineffectual.
The main reason for the success of Mason and Bentaleb is the adaptability of the pair. Mason bombs forward but is also a dogged tackler; Bentaleb is a great passer and recycler of the ball. The duo can attack and defend comprehensively, whereas Capoue and Stambouli are a little too specialised in defence. Still, there have been times this season where these men may have been a better fit than Mason and Bentaleb.
Let’s take Bentaleb and Mason out of the picture. What could Capoue and Stambouli bring to the side? Firstly, Capoue has an excellent passing range, tackles and harasses opponents quite alike to how Sandro Raniere used to play for the club. Capoue is also very strong on the ball and hard to knock off. Fitting into either defensive midfield or even as a centre back, he is certainly useful, yet, he has rarely featured recently. Secondly, Stambouli plays in defensive midfield also, is a good interceptor and presser and has a good engine to power him throughout a match. Pochettino has used him more than Capoue, but even then mainly on the bench in the Premier League. Both players have good qualities, but then again, both players have bad qualities. Stambouli is awfully slow off the ball which leaves him stranded against quick players, whilst Capoue is faster but can lose concentration. Again, these players are too defence-focused and struggle higher up the pitch.
Have Spurs missed the pair? No. Mason and Bentaleb have been far superior this season and have proven to be a solid core in midfield. Capoue and Stambouli would be good backup and utility players, but aren’t deserving of a start. Is it worth keeping them as substitutes even though they were bought in with the aim as to be the first team players? Maybe. It depends on the progress of Mason and Bentaleb. But, really it is worth investing in some new, perhaps more box to box midfielders to help create competition for Mason and Bentaleb.
Capoue and Stambouli aren’t key players at Spurs, nor do they have the potential to be. Paulinho is higher than them in the pecking order, and that’s all that needs to be said about the two Frenchmen.