Tottenham had an excellent defensive record last season and it was the basis for their title challenge. The defensive partnership of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld have continued their good work even into the 2016-17 season to earn the praise of Martin Keown. Spurs had the joint best defensive record – along with Manchester United – last season. Now, they have conceded only three goals in the opening seven matches; table leaders Manchester City have conceded more than twice this amount and it speaks volumes about their defensive solidarity.
Keown has even gone as far as saying that Alderweireld and Vertonghen could just be the two best players in the Premier League at the moment. The credit to bring in both of them together must go to Mauricio Pochettino.
Vertonghen moved to Tottenham in 2012 and he initially struggled to settle in the Premier League. The Belgian was often culpable of making big mistakes, which would often lead to goals, in games. He did not seem to be the top defender Tottenham have been searching for a long time. Partnerships play a major role in football and it was proved when Vertonghen started putting in some excellent performances played alongside Alderweireld. Keown said via his Daily Mail column:
“I have also been very impressed by Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen at Tottenham. Sometimes with defenders you want to talk about partnerships rather than individuals and these two look very solid, as they did last season.”
Alderweireld, who is also a Belgian international, came to English football on loan from Atletico Madrid. Pochettino was in charge of Southampton and his only season at the south coast club proved to be a major success on the back of performances from the likes of Alderweireld. It immediately persuaded the Argentine to sign Alderweireld on a permanent basis, but this time for Tottenham. It united the two Belgians at White Hart Lane and they have not looked back since.
Pochettino will be aware that a good defence is the foundation for trophies. Spurs can now concentrate on improving elsewhere – like when it comes to scoring – in the hunt for trophies. Of course, Spurs have a great defensive record this season but they have managed to score only 12 from the seven games. It is a statistic that looks pale in comparison with the 18 goals scored by Manchester City and Liverpool. Pochettino’s teams have focused more on getting the victory with a clean sheet rather than a Kevin Keegan-esque narrow win.
Alderweireld and Vertonghen may be getting a lot of attention, but they are quite far off from winning individual accolades. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and Diego Costa are likely to have better opportunities when it comes to winning individual honours like the PFA Player of the Year awards, but Spurs winning the league title could alter this element.