Jan Vertonghen was a big fan’s favourite during his first season at Spurs. Signed from Ajax, he looked every bit as smooth and silky an operator as you’d expect from a product of the famous Dutch club.

Last season the lustre started to fade. In a tough campaign in which Tottenham underwent a change in management and suffered several heavy defeats, Vertonghen’s performances and lack of mental strength were disappointing. While Spurs’ other senior player Hugo Lloris retained his high standards despite the turmoil surrounding him, Vertonghen let his slip and looked to have zero appetite for a fight.

Vertonghen’s third season at White Hart Lane saw him get back on track. He was in and out of the starting line-up during Mauricio Pochettino’s first few weeks as manager but it soon became clear that the defence looked stronger when the Belgian was present.

He was in fine form for a big chunk of the season but recently the errors have started to creep back into his game. It could be a simple case of fatigue. Because the defence looked so shaky when Vertonghen was rested, he had to play in a lot of games over the busy periods of Christmas and early 2015, having starred in the World Cup for his country this summer.

Yet there is a nagging doubt with Vertonghen that though he looks a fine player when the going is good, he is not the leader Tottenham need in defence when things gets tough. After the recent 3-0 mauling at Old Trafford, the Sky pundits asked why rookie defender Eric Dier was tasked with looking after the dangerous Maroune Fellaini from set-pieces. As the senior member of the back four, they wondered why Vertonghen hadn’t taken the initiative and dealt with Fellaini himself.

The normally impressive Dier looked seriously out of sorts in that game and had no idea how to handle Fellaini’s forays from the inside-left position. Vertonghen should be the man to guide him through these challenging times.

As a long-term combination Dier and Vertonghen look too similar to one another to consistently provide defensive stability. Dier is the one with youth on his side and the greater potential to grow as both footballer and a leader.

With the likes of Vlad Chiriches, Younes Kaboul and even Federico Fazio more likely to be shown the exit from Spurs before Vertonghen, it looks unlikely that he will be leaving the club any time soon. That said, if a sizeable offer did come in – we live in a world where defenders such as David Luiz, Eliaquim Mangala and Thomas Vermaelen attract huge fees – it would surely have to be considered.

Vertonghen is a lovely footballer but he’s not the sort of defender that you build a back four around. He’s the player that you slot in alongside a pure defender – the sort that takes no prisoners, is physically imposing and leads the defence. For now, that’s a player that Tottenham are still looking for.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Spurs need a leader at the back, surely that is not in doubt. Someone who can organise and take charge. Rose and Walker both neglect their primary roles of defence and go walkabout upfield at will, leaving the defence weak and exposed down the flanks. In the centre of defence Vertonghen and Dier don’t appear to have any understanding and continually get caught too close together and as a result are too easily taken out of play with long balls. A commanding centre back who can organise and control those about him is a must, otherwise we will continue to leak goals which make our goals against coloumn look pretty poor. 45 goals against says it all when compared to other top challenging teams.
    What is somewhat disconcerting is that this problem doesn’t seem to be being addressed by the coaching staff. Surely someone must realise that at the top level, you cannot hope that if the opposition score 2-3 goals we will score 3-4!
    An experienced centre back is a must if Spurs wish to progress, but unfortunately we don’t seem to have that player. An essential purchase for next season I think.

  2. We need a centre back from the Ledley King mould or even Sol Campbell School of Defenders or going back to another great !!!! Mike England.
    The List is endless.
    COYS.

  3. No heart no guts no desire weak never will be be a leader in a back 4 also not helping dier with his progression or confidence. we are desperate for some quality defenders and a real leader but it’s been that way for ten or more years apart from ledly Dawson was all heart and guts but never top draw what we would give for those two now . Is there any defender’s out there that will come to spurs that’s the biggest question .

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