The transfer of Jan Vertonghen may have been sanctioned prior to the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas, but he is tailor-made for his Tottenham Hotspur blueprint. The new-look, fluid Spurs may have made a mixed start to the new season, but their buccaneering performance at Old Trafford provided a timely demonstration of their new direction.
Aggressive on the break and in pressing the opposition, they stormed to a 2-0 half time lead before eventually winning 3-2, their first win at Old Trafford since 1989, following it up with a comfortable win over Aston Villa on Sunday. Vertonghen opened the scoring in Manchester and was instrumental throughout.
After scoring a thumping free kick on international duty with Belgium in the 2-0 win against Wales, Vertonghen opened his account for Spurs in 3-0 Carling Cup victory at Carlisle. Three days later, he played a one-two with Gareth Bale whilst striding past Michael Carrick and Luis Nani, opening the scoring in the second minute against United, with the benefit of a big deflection off Jonny Evans.
Having started the season at centre back, Vertonghen switched to left-back at half-time against Queens Park Rangers, with Spurs trailing 1-0 at White Hart Lane. A much-improved second-half display saw the home side secure a 2-1 win, as Rangers struggled to contain the Belgian’s forays forward.
It is a role he has become accustomed to at international level, with Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen stationed centrally. Highly regarded in Amsterdam, Vertonghen proved to be adept in any left-sided position, in either defence or midfield. His path to the first team was initially blocked by Vermaelen and John Heitinga, and his eventual breakthrough arrived when Heitinga departed for Athletico Madrid in 2008.
Marco van Basten and Vermaelen both left the following summer and Vertonghen thrived under new coach Martin Jol. His progress continued under Frank de Boer and the 25-year-old left the Eredivisie as the Ajax captain and reigning player of the year, after winning back to back titles.
Villas-Boas has already hailed Vertonghen’s potential, claiming: “We
“Jan is very comfortable with the ball and as long as his ambition is displayed within reason and the team is balanced, you have to allow players to express themselves. This is why I say he is capable of making a big impact.”
Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s knee injury should ensure that Vertonghen continues at left-back for the foreseeable future, as one half of a potentially explosive partnership with Gareth Bale. His versatility will be key for the Spurs defence this season, with William Gallas and Younes Kaboul injury prone, coupled with the inexperience of Steven Caulker and Kyle Naughton. He may also be required to assist a prodominantly attack-minded midfield at times, as Tottenham juggle four different competitions.
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