Tottenham's defensive odd couple look to forge a partnership
They say opposites attract, and football is no different. The history of the game is littered with successful partnerships consisting of players not cut from the same cloth Ã¢ÂÂ be it physically or technically.
Tottenham Hotspur defenders Younes Kaboul and Sebastien Bassong certainly fit that mould. France international Kaboul is big, powerful and superb in the air, while Bassong Ã¢ÂÂ who went to last summerÃ¢ÂÂs World Cup with Cameroon, the country of his parents Ã¢ÂÂ is nimble, quick and good on the ball.
On the basis of FourFourTwoÃ¢ÂÂs meeting with the pair, Kaboul and Bassong are also two very different characters. The former is enthusiastic, outgoing and jovial, while the latter seems more pensive, calm and quiet.
This difference could well be down to their contrasting fortunes with Spurs this season.
While Kaboul has been widely praised for his composed and rock-solid performances at the back Ã¢ÂÂ playing in 12 of SpursÃ¢ÂÂ 14 competitive matches to date Ã¢ÂÂ Bassong has been largely left kicking his heels on the sidelines.
A common sight in recent months: Bassong warms up
The stringing-out of Ledley KingÃ¢ÂÂs injury-plagued career has seen Bassong play little over two-and-a-half hours of league football so far this term. And being a regular fixture in Harry RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs Europa League Ã¢ÂÂsecond stringÃ¢ÂÂ, last week even captaining them, has done little to quell his dissatisfaction.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs naturally frustrating when youÃ¢ÂÂre not playing week in, week out,Ã¢ÂÂ Bassong tells FourFourTwo. Ã¢ÂÂIeÃ¢ÂÂm wanting to play week in, week out, so when I get a chance to play IÃ¢ÂÂm trying to make sure I do a good job Ã¢ÂÂ thatÃ¢ÂÂs what IÃ¢ÂÂm getting paid for, after all. That is what the manager is expecting from me.
Ã¢ÂÂThatÃ¢ÂÂs how football is Ã¢ÂÂ not everybody in the squad can play every game. There is the starting XI and if youÃ¢ÂÂre not in it you just have to accept it and keep trying your best.
Ã¢ÂÂNo matter what happens you can only accept the managerÃ¢ÂÂs decision. IÃ¢ÂÂm not going to lie, for me itÃ¢ÂÂs been very tough at times. I didnÃ¢ÂÂt always understand the [managerÃ¢ÂÂs] choices, as IÃ¢ÂÂd been playing well but still got dropped. But thatÃ¢ÂÂs football.Ã¢ÂÂ
TottenhamÃ¢ÂÂs recent form has been impressive. The North Londoners have taken 16 points from a possible 18 and steadily rose from the bottom of the Premier League at the end of August to fifth place by mid October.
Ã¢ÂÂWe had two bad games against Manchester United and Manchester City, and then it was the [international] break,Ã¢ÂÂ Kaboul explains. Ã¢ÂÂWe knew we had to come back and start the season again, playing at the level we had last year. WeÃ¢ÂÂve been able to do that and from then on weÃ¢ÂÂve been doing OK.
Ã¢ÂÂWe just need to continue in this way and have the belief that it will take us back into the Champions League next year. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs what we want.Ã¢ÂÂ
Kaboul nets against Manchester City, but Spurs are still well beaten
Spurs recent impressive form combined with ArsenalÃ¢ÂÂs early season struggles has lead to much talk of a Ã¢ÂÂshift in the balance of powerÃ¢ÂÂ in North London. Could it come to pass?
Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt know,Ã¢ÂÂ comes KaboulÃ¢ÂÂs honest reply. /Ã¢ÂÂWhen weÃ¢ÂÂve played them in the last two years we have been better than them, and itÃ¢ÂÂs about us improving rather than them just getting worse.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs possible we could finish above them,Ã¢ÂÂ add Bassong. Ã¢ÂÂBut who knows what could happen? The gap is definitely closing, a few years ago Arsenal were a lot better than Tottenham, but now...Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂHenry is not there,Ã¢ÂÂ Kaboul quips.
Ã¢ÂÂ...and we have been improving and improving and hopefully we will finish above them this season,Ã¢ÂÂ Bassong continues.
In last SundayÃ¢ÂÂs win at Blackburn, Kaboul and Bassong started a league game together for the first time since April 2010, though on that occasion Ã¢ÂÂ a 2-1 victory over Chelsea - Kaboul was deployed at right back. Despite rarely being given the chance to prove themselves in tandem, Bassong believes he and Kaboul could be a successful central defensive partnership.
Ã¢ÂÂWe enjoy playing together, but weÃ¢ÂÂve not had the chance to do it too often. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs a lot of competition at Tottenham, but I think if we get the chances we can make a good partnership. We understand each other and work well together.Ã¢ÂÂ
With Michael Dawson still nursing an Achilles injury, Ledley King struggling with continuing knee problems and William Gallas yet to make an appearance this season after suffering two calf injuries, now is perhaps as good a chance as ever for Kaboul and Bassong to stake a claim for dual starting spots.
Bassong and Kaboul 'hug it out' in training
Their story doesnÃ¢ÂÂt start at White Hart Lane, but instead in the youth system of French football in the early years of the last decade.
Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂve known each other since we were sixteen,Ã¢ÂÂ Kaboul, now 25, reveals. Ã¢ÂÂI was at Auxerre and he was at Clairefontaine and then Metz and we would often play against each other in youth tournaments.
As Kaboul reminisces on his formative years in Burgundy under the tutelage of the legendary Guy Roux, his modern day teammate interjects. Ã¢ÂÂYounes was the biggest fella we ever played against, weÃ¢ÂÂd never forget him Ã¢ÂÂ heÃ¢ÂÂs always been a big guy.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂI was at Clairefontaine with players like [Abou] Diaby and [Hatem] Ben Arfa and it was a really good experience to be in that environment. They taught us the skills you need for football, but also they taught us to love football.Ã¢ÂÂ
Through the 90s, FranceÃ¢ÂÂs elite youth academy has churned out such players as William Gallas, Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry. While EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs Lilleshall centre was shut down in 1999 in favour of club academies Ã¢ÂÂ many of which began to recruit from overseas Ã¢ÂÂ Clairefontaine continues to develop top level players.
Ã¢ÂÂHaving an elite academy like that in this country it would really help English football,Ã¢ÂÂ says Kaboul. Ã¢ÂÂMaybe even two Ã¢ÂÂ why not one in Manchester, one in London?Ã¢ÂÂ
Of course, England will soon once again have a centralised elite academy in Burton, and Bassong speaks from experience when he says its opening cannot come soon enough.
Ã¢ÂÂLet [the young players] focus on football, always,Ã¢ÂÂ the defender reasons. Ã¢ÂÂWe would have school in the morning and then football in the afternoon. But we lived for football Ã¢ÂÂ we always thought about football and how to be better. The environment was built for this.Ã¢ÂÂ
The lengthy queue for the London Eye didn't please the Spurs duo...
ThatÃ¢ÂÂs the long term future of English football sorted, then. But what of the shorter term?
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp has been widely touted as the man to succeed Fabio Capello as England coach when the Italian steps down following next summerÃ¢ÂÂs European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. Is this something that the defensive duo have spent much time thinking about?
Ã¢ÂÂNo, weÃ¢ÂÂre not English!Ã¢ÂÂ The pair quickly chuckle in reply. But theyÃ¢ÂÂre only half-joking.
Ã¢ÂÂIf he gets the job, good for him,Ã¢ÂÂ Bassong reasons. Ã¢ÂÂIf he can get the job and he wants it, then what can you say? Do we worry about it? Not really.Ã¢ÂÂ
More immediately, Tottenham face a Queens Park Rangers side on a high having just beaten West London rivals Chelsea for the first time in 16 years.
Neil WarnockÃ¢ÂÂs team have shown signs of improvement since Tony Fernandes arrived in ShepherdÃ¢ÂÂs Bush in the dying days of the summer transfer window and allowed Neil Warnock the finances to invest heavily in his squad.
Ã¢ÂÂThey seem to be a strong team,Ã¢ÂÂ says Kaboul. Ã¢ÂÂWith the teams that have just come up you never know what will happen. They can beat Manchester United one week and then lose the next. But itÃ¢ÂÂs the same as any game in the Premier League for us Ã¢ÂÂ we have to be prepared and concentrate 100 percent.Ã¢ÂÂ
And that could be the key to SpursÃ¢ÂÂ hopes of returning to the Champions League. Not since 2006/07 have Spurs taken nine points from their three home matches against the newly promoted clubs. After all, the 19 points dropped to last seasonÃ¢ÂÂs bottom five were ultimately what cost the North LondonerÃ¢ÂÂs an immediate return to EuropeÃ¢ÂÂs elite cup competition.
Kaboul and Bassong were playing Battlefield 3, out now on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. For more information visit www.battlefield3.com/uk . For the latest news. Visit facebook.com/battlefield3 and follow @battlefield3 on Twitter.