If you could build the ideal modern-day centre-back in a lab there’s a high chance it would closely resemble Cameron Carter-Vickers.
The Tottenham Hotspur defender, who is on loan at Swansea City, may not be a household name yet but he’s already turned out for the US Men's National Team.
In the latest instalment of our Rising Stars series, we've taken a closer look at the powerful defender to discover what kind of player the US Men's National Team have on their hands, and why he’s so highly rated.
Who is Carter-Vickers?
Born in Southend-on-Sea, England, Carter-Vickers joined Tottenham Hotspur as an 11-year-old. The son of former NBA star Howard Carter, he was born to be an athlete and, though he was schooled in England, he spent his summer with his father in Louisiana.
Carter-Vickers turned out for Tottenham's academy and it was while playing in the IMG Cup in Florida he caught the eye of the American coaches at the event after the Under-17 team impressed. They then realised he was eligible for a U.S. passport.
From then he was earmarked as a potential mainstay in the USMNT defence. Spurs knew they had a talent on their hands and managed his playing time wisely. He’s been loaned to Sheffield United, Ipswich Town and now Swansea City. All of these loans have been designed to get him minutes and have been invaluable for his development.
"I am enjoying it, the manager is good and so is the team, the manager wants us to play in the right way, playing out the back, keeping possession. I feel like I am improving,” Carter-Vickers told the Evening Standard in December.
While he wasn’t initially an automatic starter for Swansea, Carter-Vickers has been in coach Graham Potter's first XI in recent weeks.
Carter-Vickers ticks a number of boxes as a modern-day centre-back. He reads the game well, as shown by his tackles and interception numbers on a per-90 basis. The fact the tackles attempted stat is so low means he rarely has to recover from poor positions to make tackles. It’s a sign of a player who reads the game well.
He’s in the top 50 for aerial duels won in the Championship by defenders – which you might expect from a player measuring in at 1.83m. He ranks third for most passes and no centre-back in the league plays more accurate passes on a per-90 basis.
The 21-year-old completes 91.67 per cent of his passes. Even in frantic and frenetic matches, which is so often the case in England’s second tier, he’s composed in possession.
Carter-Vickers is the sort of centre-back a coach could build his defence around. He’s a leader despite his age and there’s a maturity to his game. He’s a physical presence who isn’t afraid to get stuck in when it is necessary but very rarely does he go to round unless he has to.
His explosive acceleration allows him to gobble up the ground to cover for team-mates and his speed enables him to play as part of a high defensive line. It’s something centre-backs need these days with so many teams now adopting a high press. With their starting points being so close to the half-way line, defenders need that recovery pace so that if there is a turnover in possession, they aren’t exposed.
In possession, Carter-Vickers plays 30 per cent of his passes forward which shows he’s always looking to get his team going, while his long ball game is good. He attempts 3.22 on a per-90 basis and completes 65 per cent. His expressive play allows Swansea to play through offensive lines and get into dangerous areas.
International - USMNT
Carter-Vickers turned out at under-18, under-20 and under-23 level for USMNT, even captaining the under-20 side in a 2-0 loss to England in October 2016. Reports emerged around that time the Three Lions were interested in calling the centre-back up but the U.S acted quickly by including him in their senior squad in November 2016.
He had to wait a year to make his full debut but it arrived in a friendly against Portugal.
"When I got the call-up, I was delighted," Carter-Vickers revealed in 2016. "Any opportunity to represent your country, you always look forward to it, and I can't wait to get going."
He’s struck up a partnership with Chelsea player Matt Miazga and the pair could be playing at the heart of the USMNT defence together for the next decade.
The Tottenham defender could become of the best in Europe in his position over the next couple of years. The experience he’s gained playing in a highly competitive league stands him in good stead to really kick on.
Combine that with the fact he’s already turned out for the national team – another good learning curve that separates him from others his age – and that Mauricio Pochettino is his coach at club level, and there’s no reason he couldn’t fulfil the abundance of potential he has.
Pochettino helped develop Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld into two of the best centre-backs in European soccer while both Juan Foyth and Davinson Sánchez have matured as players under his watch.
Carter-Vickers is ideal for the way Spurs look to play soccer and perfect physically for the Premier League.
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