SuperJan! – Ben McAleer’s take on Spurs star Vertonghen
In anticipation of PSV – Ajax, Ben McAleer takes a look on how the former captain of the Amsterdammers is faring at his new club Tottenham Hotspur.
There are a number of footballers in the modern game that look as though they’d be good listeners. Those that will hang on every word you have to say and be genuinely intrigued as to what you, the fan, has to say, regardless of how moronic it may sound. Jan Vertonghen looks to be that type of footballer.
The centre-back has the aura of niceness about him, one that exudes a ‘Yes, go on…’ look about it, which is not only welcoming to supporters, but is aesthetically pleasing to match. It’s a trend that Tottenham Hotspur have looked to follow ever since the appointment of the, let’s be honest, beautiful Andre Villas-Boas over the summer.
Hugo Lloris, another who would be genuinely intrigued as to what one would have to say, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Mousa Dembele – Vertonghen’s compatriot who oozes cool – all securing a switch to White Hart Lane over the summer, with Steffen Freund – the most charismatic assistant manager you’ll find in the game – returning to north London.
Throw in Lewis Holtby’s early arrival in January are there is the argument that Spurs have the best looking team in the Premier League. And it’s all down to Vertonghen. Why, you ask? Well, from the day Ledley King announced his decision to retire from the game, the need to replace the Spurs hero and stalwart was of the highest order, at that time.
It’s fair to say King’s career had been cruelly cut to an end far too early. Without his troublesome knee problems, the 32-year-old could easily have gone on to become one of the game’s best central defenders, such was the calmness he radiated in the defensive line for the north London side.
His ability to play the ball out of defence and he experience he often brought to the back four aided in endearing him to the Spurs faithful, who had needed a new hero – a local, academy player – to worship following Sol Campbell’s highly controversial switch to Arsenal back in 2001.
Nevertheless, Vertonghen was viewed as the perfect replacement for King. His playing days with Ajax saw him become one of the game’s most sought after defenders, with Spurs beating off the likes of Arsenal and Barcelona to the signing of the Belgium international, the latter of whom could have utilised a defender of his ability this season.
However, it is Villas-Boas’ side that are now reaping the benefits of pursuing the signature of Vertonghen with the 25-year-old slotting into his new surroundings effortlessly. Providing the “continental” approach to defending in the heart of the Spurs backline.
His versatility has also become an asset to the 25-year-old, with his capability to fill in at left-back aiding the club in the enforced absence of Benoit Assou-Ekotto or against teams that offer a more physical approach to football, Stoke City and West Ham United two prime examples of where the defender has started in a defence consisting of Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker as a means of counteracting the direct tactic adopted by Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce, respectively.
Yet, against teams that, as cliched as it sounds, like to get the ball down and play, Vertonghen is better suited in the heart of the defence. He has performed admirably in the position when called upon – Manchester United away from home and a half time switch to left-back saw the game swing back in Spurs’ favour during the 2-1 win over QPR last September – but it’s evident centre-back is his strongest place on the pitch.
With Dawson alongside him in defence, and Lloris behind the pairing, the effective pairing in the backline is clear for all to see. The England man offers the leadership qualities in the back four, but also the no nonsense, heart on the sleeve approach compliments Vertonghen’s continental capabilities to near perfection, especially with the rapidness of the French goalkeeper behind the duo.
Furthermore, being left footed also aids in the balance of the Spurs defence, with Dawson stronger on his right foot. With his insistence on, at times, breaking forward to support the attack, evident in his goalscoring record for the north Londoners this season of which he has netted seven times in all competitions, he’s become another asset of the club’s offensive approach on the pitch.
While it was a long time coming, the acquisition of Vertonghen has certainly proven to be an astute one by Villas-Boas. Spurs have the defender to match his plans of the high defensive line and one that will carry the ball forward to instigate attacks from deep, which has been continuously proven time and time again this season.
With the onus also being on ball retention under Villas-Boas, the Belgian is the perfect player for the role that is set out before him. Endearing himself to the fans – many of whom dub him SuperJan as a tribute to the Man of Steel – and it’s no shock to see many believe him to be the signing of the season, with his football reinforcing the opinions of the majority.
Coffee drinking, banana eating, cigarette smoking fiend, Ben is a keen football enthusiast willing to discuss all aspects of the beautiful game. Add in movies and music, and you have a menage-a-trois of topics to fill his time. A self proclaimed Zlatan Ibrahimovic admirer and lover of David Luiz’s hair, you can definitely find Ben on Twitter where he tweets too much about Garth Crooks’ team of the week and his irrational hatred of Paul McShane. Ben has worked for esteemed media such as FourFourTwo, Sabotage Times, Setanta, Goal, Eurosport and Backpage Football among others and we are very happy he took time out to contribute to Benefoot.