Spurs have five centre-backs right now, which would be a nice number if they were all good.
Instead there are question marks over nearly all of them. Younes Kaboul is in terminal decline but for some reason has been named captain; Federico Fazio is looking better yet is slow and keeps getting sent off; Eric Dier has mostly played at right-back; Vlad Chiriches is Vlad Chiriches.
The one with the least to prove is Jan Vertonghen. An assured central defender who is comfortable on the ball, Tottenham have generally looked better when he’s been in the team this season and those that play alongside him have seen their performances improve.
That’s not to say that Vertonghen does not provoke debate. He more or less gave up under Tim Sherwood. Some might argue that’s understandable considering how things fell apart, yet Hugo Lloris is an example of a senior player who kept his standards while all around were letting theirs slip.
Plenty of anger was directed at Vertonghen at the time and many fans felt that if he couldn’t be bothered to play for the club then he should be sold. Time is a quick healer in football though and Vertonghen has settled down this season, recently hinting that he sees his future at Spurs.
Regardless of what Vertonghen might say the speculation over his future continues. He has been in and out of Mauricio Pochettino’s side this season, which suggests that the manager might have some reservations about the Belgian.
Yet Vertonghen’s stock remains high elsewhere, with Liverpool and Manchester United both having been linked with a move for the player. Regardless of whether Pochettino fancies him or not, the fact that there are big clubs that would clearly improve with Vertonghen in the side makes his sale a possibility.
Despite the options Tottenham have at centre-back the balance is all wrong. There is no real pace at the back and that needs to be rectified.
At least one and possibly two players must go – preferably in January – to make room for a new recruit. Having only been recently signed, Dier and Fazio will certainly stay. Which leaves Chiriches, Kaboul and Vertonghen.
Of that trio only Vertonghen is likely to attract big money. When you consider that Thomas Vermaelen was sold for £15m last summer, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Vertonghen could bring in at least £20m.
In an ideal world Vertonghen is a player that you’d keep. In a pragmatic one he is a player that you have to consider selling.
As good as Vertonghen is, he does make errors. This January or the summer might well provide one of those situations when the price received for a player outweighs his usefulness to the team.