From the 11th of November until last Wednesday Tottenham have been without influential centre-back Toby Alderweireld. In his absence, fellow Belgian Jan Vertonghen has stepped up. The centre-back has had a fluctuating five years at Tottenham. However, Sunday’s display against Liverpool was yet another stellar performance from the former Ajax man. Given how good Alderweireld has been since signing from Athletico Madrid, Vertonghen has been largely overlooked. However, as his performances remain at a constant high level, it’s about time his name is mentioned alongside Alderweireld and other Premier League defenders in the world-class bracket.
Jan Vertonghen: Tottenham’s Unsung Hero
Highs and Lows
From getting in the PFA Team of the Year in his first season to being dropped in favour of Younes Kaboul and Federico Fazio in 2014, it has been a turbulent time at Tottenham. A lot of people put some of his poor form down to the fact he was paired with sub-par players like Kaboul, Vlad Chirches and Fazio. At times Vertoghen was the only competent player among the backline. The arrival of Alderweireld has given Tottenham a solid backbone and allowed Vertonghen to shine. Vertonghen’s attitude has also improved since Pochettino became manager. He was often criticized for appearing to have a poor attitude by the media. There were also rumours of fellow players not viewing him as captain material.
Vertonghen Stepping Up
Since Alderweireld’s injury, Jan Vertonghen has been a rock at the back for Tottenham. Often beside a younger player like Davinson Sanchez or Eric Dier, the Belgian has rarely put a foot wrong. Despite the fact Tottenham have conceded just two fewer league goals so far this season than they did the entirety of last season, Jan Vertonghen has still maintained his performance level despite the upheaval of injuries, new signings and Kyle Walker’s transfer to Manchester City. Tottenham have only lost three times in Alderweireld’s absence and a lot of that is to do with Vertonghen’s leadership and marshalling of the defence. When Pochettino needed him to step up he did so. The Belgian has flourished in a difficult period for the Tottenham defence. Vertonghen has really shown the pedigree that has seen him recently become Belgium’s all-time record cap holder.
Despite his form being at a near-constant high level since Pochettino took charge, Vertonghen is rarely mentioned alongside the other top defenders in the Premier League let alone the worlds top centre-backs. If Vertonghen maintains his form then Tottenham will continue to be able to play with a solid defensive foundation. Pundits will also begin to struggle to keep his name out of the world-class discussion.