It has been confirmed that Jan Vertonghen has damaged his ankle ligaments during the 4-0 win over West Brom, with reports claiming that he could spend as long as two months on the sidelines.
Vertonghen’s absence is a major blow in a season that has seen Spurs suffer a number of injuries to key players. The Belgian has been enjoying what has been arguably his best campaign since joining the club and his injury is especially worrying when you consider that Toby Alderweireld has had fitness problems of late.
So how should Mauricio Pochettino deal with his absence? There looks to be three options.
1. Switch to a back four
By switching to a back four from the three man central defence that has been used in recent weeks, Pochettino can simply replace Vertonghen with a more attacking player.
The problem with this is that the team has looked brilliant since changing to a back three and with Erik Lamela still injured, there are a lack of options in wide attacking positions. Pochettino does not yet seem to fully trust summer signings Georges-Kevin Nkoudou or Moussa Sissoko, while Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen have been far more effective since the formation change.
That said, we may well see a switch to a back four for cup games, when Pochettino will doubtless rotate his side.
2. Replace Vertonghen with Ben Davies
It was the Welsh international who came on as substitute for Vertonghen against WBA. He has played on the left side of a back three for his country and certainly looks a decent option, swelling the number of fit central defenders from four to five.
Though perhaps more suited to this role than as a replacement for the marauding Danny Rose, it seems likely that Davies will have to deputise for Rose in the FA Cup and Europa League, as Pochettino juggles his commitments. So while we may well again see Davies as a central defender before the season is out, it’s unlikely that he’ll stick to the role.
3. Give Kevin Wimmer another chance to impress
When Vertonghen was injured at a similar stage of last season, Wimmer did a fine job of replacing him. The main difference now is that Vertonghen is playing better than he was a year ago and there has been a change in formation.
Wimmer is very able to play on the left-side of a back three but will not be quite the attacking threat that Vertonghen can be from this position. Yet with Alderweireld and Eric Dier alongside him, it’s not like Wimmer will be the only outlet as Tottenham look to play out from the back. No slouch with the ball at his feet, we’d expect Wimmer to get the nod against Manchester City at the weekend.