In recent seasons, Tottenham’s attempts to finish in the top four and thus qualify for the Champions League has been all too often undermined by a leaky defence, and they have been the victims of several punishing defeats to the sides around them and those challenging for the title.
The appointment of Mauricio Pochettino as manager in the summer of 2014 was surely made with more than half an eye on rectifying that, but despite achieving a very creditable fifth place last season and playing a more high-energy game under the Argentine, they were still far from the most difficult side to break down. A total of 53 goals conceded meant that no side that finished above 14th in the Premier League had let in more.
Of the central defensive options, Jan Vertonghen was the experienced head and will remain a key figure going forward, although he appears to lack leadership to go with his quality. The inexperience of former England U-21 international Eric Dier occasionally showed, Federico Fazio has been prone to the odd rash moment or loss of positional sense, while Vlad Chiriches and Younes Kaboul both fell out of favour as the campaign wore on.
Pochettino is a manager who prides himself on hard work, intensity, and possession-based football, employing a high pressing game. He needs the players who are suited to that style, and is now slowly but surely putting together his own squad. And his latest signing may prove to be his best yet, beating former club Southampton in the race to land Atletico Madrid central defender Toby Alderweireld.
It took a great deal of hard work to seal the deal, in what was a lengthy two-way battle for the player’s signature, but bringing in a player of Alderweireld’s pedigree should ensure that such effort was more than worth making.
The Belgian has significant experience of playing at the highest level, at both club and international level. He mainly plays at right-back for his country, but he showed just how strong he is in his natural position of central defence while on loan with the Saints last term, playing a major role – in spite of a couple of injury lay-offs – in their amazing record at the back.
Alongside fellow countryman Vertonghen he has the potential to help Spurs to make that step back into Europe’s premier competition, and looks to be the perfect fit for Pochettino’s philosophy. His versatility will also prove invaluable, as his qualities playing in central midfield were proved to be more than adequate when required to deputise in that position on the South coast.
One or two more acquisitions are still needed for the North Londoners to become a force to be reckoned with, especially as one of the main targets for 2015-16 is to achieve a greater degree of consistency. Alderweireld is the type of player who leads by example and rarely looks perturbed, meaning that his signing represents a major boost for the club ahead of what is certain to be another highly competitive race to earn the right to take on the elite clubs of the continent.
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