It’s no secret that Tottenham Hotspur miss Sandro in defensive midfield. The Brazilian brought steel, intelligence and the ability to intercept almost everything that came his way during his great form from September to January. But his injury in the first 25 minutes in Spurs’ away trip to former manager Harry Redknapp’s QPR side, has left us thinking, Scott Parker really isn’t the player to fill the Brazilian’s boots.
In the Redknapp regime, Parker played an instrumental role before picking up an injury in March/April time when we succumbed a ten point lead over our rivals Arsenal. Parker completed the job Redknapp asked him to, to guard the back four, run around and intercept, put challenges in, but most importantly give the ball to Luka Modric.
Redknapp and Modric have been and gone, Andre Villas-Boas’ side do not go out to ‘enjoy themselves’ to ‘play with freedom.’ No, there is a strict game plan that Villas-Boas sends his starting line up with.
Since Sandro’s injury, Scott Parker hasn’t fulfilled the defensive midfield position. He’s pushed forward more, when maybe he should stick to the position he played in so well last season. Parker doesn’t have the ability to pass the ball forward, he doesn’t have the ability to do anything, but a full 360 degree turn and then play the ball to one of the back four.
One player that I think could fulfil Sandro’s role in the team until he makes his return from his knee injury is Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian loves to bring the ball out from the back and push the team forward, but as a central defender, he knows when he needs to push forward and knows when to sit back.
Vertonghen has played the defensive midfield role on numerous occasions for Belgium, and back in his Ajax days. His game versus West Brom on the 3rd of February demonstrates the 25 year old’s versatility.
In that game he completed 55 of his 57 passes (96%), 35 out of 37 passes were played forward, the other twenty being played backward or square. Vertonghen has the ability to find space between the lines; the Belgian played three of his 57 passes in the attacking third of the pitch.
Vertonghen has been one of the most consistent performers in defence this season, not just for Tottenham, but in the Premier League, averaging 7.49 per game.
Vertonghen has the ability to spot a pass, and playing alongside fellow Belgian Mousa Dembele may bring the latter his form back. Although his goal was sublime against Lyon, his performances have dropped since Parker has been placed alongside the midfielder.
It is clear that Dembele needs a more dynamic partner in midfield, someone who will shield the back four. You may ask, “But who will fill Vertonghen’s shoes at centre back?”
I think Steven Caulker still has a huge role to play at the club and starting alongside Michael Dawson, a natural leader should give the young English centre back the confidence he had at the start of the season, and throughout his loan spell at Swansea.
Caulker can play a passing game, something he established throughout his season in Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea side. His last three performances for Tottenham have brought at least a rating of 7.2 and over, and who was his partner in defence? Michael Dawson.
Combining Vertonghen’s defensive and midfield qualities and placing him alongside Mousa Dembele could be the perfect fit until Sandro regains his fitness.
Over to you, Andre Villas-Boas.