Inside Lane: Is this Tottenham’s best centre-back pairing since King and Woodgate?
Tottenham blogger David Lee says the arrival of Toby Alderweireld has helped to solve a long-term problem in Spurs’ defence, while also bringing out the best in his fellow Belgian Jan Vertonghen.
When Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy clinched the signing of Toby Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid in early July I couldn’t quite believe it.
For years Spurs fans had dreamt of the club identifying problem positions and acting swiftly and decisively to secure their targets.
Finally, with pre-season still in its infancy, we addressed a long-standing problem and solved a conundrum that has not been truly fixed since Ledley King hung up his boots in 2012.
The partnership that Alderweireld has forged with his compatriot Jan Vertonghen at the heart of our defence has undoubtedly been a cornerstone of our encouraging start to the season.
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The dithering and indecisiveness that plagued Mauricio Pochettino’s back line at times during his first year in charge appears to be a thing of the past, and a continuity in selection has clearly played a considerable part in our new solidity.
Vertonghen had to play alongside countless defensive partners last season, from the lumbering style of Federico Fazio to the pure unpredictability of Younes Kaboul. Now he has a reliable partner and the pair have started every Premier League game together so far this term.
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With a playing style almost as immaculate as his carefully quaffed hair, Alderweireld has brought a sense of much-needed calm to our rearguard, and we now find ourselves with two composed centre-halves who are both perfectly capable of receiving the ball from Hugo Lloris and building attacks from our own half.
Comparisons have already been drawn between our Belgian boys and the dream pairing of Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate and, in many respects, these are not too wide of the mark.
Alderweireld reads the game beautifully, much like our beloved King, and always seems to be on hand if an offside trap is foiled or an interception missed. His late diving challenge to prevent Anderlecht’s Imoh Ezekiel notching a late winner in our crucial 2-1 Europa League victory at the Lane last week also bore a resemblance to King’s unforgettable challenge on Arjen Robben way back in 2006.
Crucially, Alderweireld also seems to be bringing the very best out of Vertonghen, who now seems to have ditched the careless mistakes that crept into his game in the past few seasons.
There is still work to be done, as shown by our inability to cope with Mesut Ozil’s devilish deliveries during Sunday’s outstanding performance at the Emirates. Andy Carroll will surely not squander the same amount of chances as Olivier Giroud if given the same space in the box when West Ham visit White Hart Lane later this month.
But in Alderweireld and Vertonghen, Tottenham could well possess one of the Premier League’s most trustworthy partnerships. If they can avoid the rotten injuries of King and Woodgate, who knows what could be achieved this season.
Follow me on Twitter @David_Lee91