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Is Jan Vertonghen becoming too impetuous?

Attacking and being on the offensive is one thing, but are we getting too risky at the back, with Jan Vertonghen becoming overly impetuous in his defending?

Jan Vertonghen is a front foot defender. He tries to anticipate and get to the ball first before the opponent, looking to snuff out attacks. It’s a higher risk, but higher reward strategy. Belgium seems to be breeding this type of centre back with Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld all cast from a similar dye.

Vertonghen, as we’ve witnessed first hand, is a player who needs to feel wanted, loved and involved. When his head is not in it due to the revolving door of managers or he is not consistently playing then his attitude can go and the sloppy performances follow.

This season though, he has been the pick of our defenders. In and out of the starting line-up at the beginning of the campaign, Jan Vertonghen has been a consistent presence in our back four ever since.

Ironically, the performances this season seem to have improved since a manger whom he had a major falling out with last term, called him out after our 3-0 loss to Chelsea.

“Vertonghen is so poor. Can’t move his feet. He looks elegant with the ball, but he just can’t defend.”

Tim Sherwood was gone, but certainly didn’t want to be forgotten. However, Jan Vertonghen seemed to be fuelled by this criticism, developing a partnership with first Federico Fazio and now Eric Dier. This has seen us lose just 2 of 11 Premier League matches since. The aggression and passion is back in his game, but is it at the expense of becoming a touch impetuous and reckless in his defending?

Jan Vertonghen against Sunderland

The 2-1 victory over Sunderland saw Jan Vertonghen as the central figure. At the start, he thought he’d scored the opener, only for the dubious goals panel to take it away from him later. At the end, he was involved in one of the most ridiculous cases of being called offside of all time. Sandwiched in-between these two moments, Vertonghen also allowed Sunderland back in to the game at 1-1 with an ill-advised lunge on Jermain Defoe.

The Black Cats new addition had been looking to run in-behind all game and had been called offside several times. On this occasion, Vertonghen thought Defoe, who was coming back towards the ball, was again offside and took his frustration at the lack of a call out on the former Spurs striker.

Sebastien Larsson curled the resulting free kick in to the corner of our net to level up the scores. However, this was the first sign that Vertonghen was starting to become impetuous in his decision making with no need to hack down Defoe in such a high-risk area.

Jan Vertonghen against West Brom

Up at West Brom, we emerged with a 3-0 victory, but the Baggies were certainly more dangerous than the score line suggested.

In the first half, with us having taken the lead, West Brom were coming back in to the game. The Baggies broke quickly and moved the ball straight to Victor Anichebe beyond our midfield. Being a defender who tries to nip in front and nick the ball, Vertonghen came out from the back line and slid in looking to take it away. He missed and let the striker drive downfield at the rest of our defence.

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Jan Vertonghen’s challenge puts him out of position.

With Vertonghen removed and chasing back, this left James Morrison free to drift in to the space he would’ve occupied.

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Jan Vertonghen out of position allows Morrison in.

Morrison received the ball from Anichebe, turned and fired a curling effort towards the top corner. Hugo Lloris sprung to his right and somehow tipped it over the bar. The moment was an important one. Had it gone in, the Baggies would’ve have capitalised on the momentum they were creating and would’ve altered the flow of the match at 2-1.

Jan Vertonghen against Arsenal

The North London derby saw us sweep to victory on the wave of an impressive team performance. Pressing that forced the Gunners back in to their own half was at the centre of what turned out be a memorable day.

Arsenal did take the lead though and after getting away with his impetuous challenge at West Brom, Jan Vertonghen was punished this time by a better class of opposition.

With us pressing high up, Arsenal managed to move the ball beyond our trio of midfield pressers in to Olivier Giroud. Just as he had done at the Hawthorns, this brought Jan Vertonghen racing out from the back four in order to get to the ball first and stop the attack.

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No need for Jan Vertonghen to go to ground.

Like Anichebe, Giroud was too strong in shielding the ball and was able to lay it off to Danny Welbeck.

Although the action occurred at halfway, with Welbeck running past Danny Rose, Vertonghen was again now out of position and this caused his fellow defenders to have to rotate over. Eric Dier had to move across to slow down Welbeck. Kyle Walker had come over to pick up Olivier Giroud, leaving Mesut Ozil free.

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Jan Vertonghen out of position causes everyone to rotate.

The German would have a tap-in after a fortunate miss-kick from Giroud, but Vertonghen’s rash challenge on halfway started a domino effect. Had he stayed on his feet, then Giroud would have been forced to pass backwards and everyone, most notably our midfield trio, could’ve recovered their defensive positions.

Is Jan Vertonghen becoming too impetuous?

Whilst this may seem a harsh assessment, it’s something that has been bugging me lately about Vertonghen’s defending.

There has been a spate of ill-advised rash challenges in areas of the pitch where it is unnecessary from a player in the last line of our defence. These have invited needless pressure or seen us concede goals.

Against Liverpool on Tuesday night, looking to nick the ball away from Daniel Sturridge sent it straight in to the path of Lazar Markovic to open the scoring. It wasn’t a challenge borne out of racing from the backline like against West Brom or Arsenal. But, it was one made by a front foot defender always looking to nick the ball away from the attacker.

This week Jan Vertonghen has talked about not wanting to change our attacking approach, which has seen us pull out victories in the last ten minutes of games. This shouldn’t alter, as our pressing and stamina is starting to pay real dividends late in matches and is a positive feature of our play. However, it shouldn’t come at the expense of naive defending, which a better class of opposition, the teams we are competing against for a top four spot, will take advantage of.

With our starting XI having an average age of just 24, Vertonghen at 27 is one of the more experienced members of the group. He should be showing others the way forward. He shouldn’t let our attacking intentions cloud his judgement in to making impetuous decisions that cause unnecessary pressure on our defence.



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14 Responses to Is Jan Vertonghen becoming too impetuous?

  1. Boon 13th February 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    Agreed.

    There’s this instance vs Sheffield Vertonghen went to ground easily versus opposition winger and allowed him to cross and score. Not rushing out like the examples you mentioned, but still going to ground too easily and leaving the opposition free to continue.

    I wonder whether players at Spurs actually were given videos of what mistakes they made, how they can improve. I think players who want to become top class these days would do well to analyse their play constantly and seek to always improve. Manuel Neuer for example analyses his own game. Somebody need to tell Vertonghen of his impetuousness, evidently no one is doing so so far.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2015 at 7:26 pm #

      Great comment Boon and a good example from the Sheffield United match. You would imagine that this is being anaylsed by the way matches are scrutinised today, but the fact that it is continuing could be stubbornness on Vertonghen’s part or a lack communication of it to the player from our coaches…

  2. anotherwisemonkey 13th February 2015 at 7:31 pm #

    I totally agree. Jan has been going to ground too easily. You should only go to ground if you’re 100% sure you’re going to win the ball, or if its a last-ditch situation and there’s no other option. I hope he cuts this out as it could be crucial in our run-in.

  3. ultrapunch 13th February 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    Perhaps Sherwood was right? He’s good with the ball, but NOT a good defender!

    Pochettino was an accomplished centre half. Why isn’t he coaching these mistakes from Vertonghen’s game? Perhaps he is trying and the headstrong Vertoghen is just not prepared to listen?

    • Boon 13th February 2015 at 10:45 pm #

      That’s pretty harsh. Jan is very good defender barring a few weaknesses. If he’s not good at defending, than where does that put the rest of the backline? Catastrophic!

      On the first season at Spurs he was in the Premier League Team of the Year. There are many things he has done really well in the last couple of games and throughout this season – that composure, calmness, level-headedness, strong aerially, concentration, winning the ball back and passing to team mates that exudes calm under heavy pressure, anticipating danger and cutting them out in advance, not giving away possession cheaply that may have cost the team, seeing good opportunities to quickly release team mates in forward positions from the back line, etc. He is the best defender in Spurs’ back line and has played nearly all games this season – if not all – for a reason. Even if he retains this particular kind of mistakes, he is still the best Spurs’ defender.

      That being said, he needs to cut down on that rushing out and going to ground. A player of his class and being a leader at the back needs to cut out this particular repeating mistakes.

      Hugo Lloris was extremely consistent at making great saves, the first goal he conceded (out of his own mistake) at Liverpool only served to highlight how consistent he was. That is what Jan should aim for.

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th February 2015 at 11:16 am #

        Agree with this completely Boon. He is our best defender, but needs to work on his game awareness of when he can and can’t play on the front foot.

  4. Ga 13th February 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    He’s a fantastic defender and all round good player. You’re all being ridiculous. Is he perfect? No. Who is? Even Vidic, terry and other great CB in premier league recent history had weaknesses, its normal. Why write this shit?

  5. Ashley Collie 13th February 2015 at 11:23 pm #

    We have to find ways not to concede, it goes beyond Jan…at times Rose has been guilty, as have Jan, Fazio, and Walker (for leaving his man free behind him, often), and midfielders for not tracking back (Bentaleb lost his man for L’Arse goal, for example). In our last third place (I believe) league finish (86-87), in a 42 game sked, we won 21 games, guess how many clean sheets we had in those wins? 17 shutouts! This situation may take time to work out and as someone has noted with MoPo’s international career as a defender (in World Cup), it must irk him to see mistakes. With perhaps the best goalie in the PL, we should be progressing towards getting those clean sheets. If you don’t concede, you don’t lose. Now, we just need another goalscorer to support Kane (I’d take our midfielders scoring more)…COYS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th February 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Nice post Ashley, I’m sure the defensive side will come, it just may take a little longer to develop than the attacking side. Poch turned Saints defence around to keep clean sheets on a regular basis, so for me it’s only a matter of time before he does so here.

  6. Bretto 14th February 2015 at 7:26 am #

    Good article Mark. One that I agree with to a certain extent. I have less of a problem with his tryingt o intercept the ball. While I am not privy to Pochettino’s discussions with his assistants and Jan, I feel however that this aspect of his play has been either encouraged by Pochettino or accepted as part of his play as a centre back. Remember Pochettino likes to be aggressive and has acknowledged that mistakes will be made that will adversely affect the team when they play his way but is willing to accept that. So I do not think we should getting on Jan’s back for that aspect. This aspect of his play has done a lot to turn defence into attack and also has been a considered option when Fazio is marking a quick forward at that time – much better to try and snuff out the attack at its source then allow the through ball and subsequent foot race between Fazio and forward.

    What I do have a problem with is his penchant to go to ground readily in the tackle or intercept. This is the big problem in many of these moments where over commits and effectively gives the opposition an overlap. This is the aspect of his play I hope diminishes.

    With respect to “Tactics Tim’s” comments about Jan, I so readily discount that stuff. Tim stills revels in his days at Blackburn in the mid 90’s. That era also coincides with a period where the Premier League and the English team were a tactical pariah. The “let’s have at em lads” school of tactics was very limited and teams were always found wanting in the Champions League and World Cup despite the obvious talent available. The man knows little about tactics nor about man management – which are large parts of the game. Most of his comments are made to make himself to feel like “the man”.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th February 2015 at 11:30 am #

      Great comment Bretto. I think we are sort of in agreement, I wouldn’t want to take the front foot defending out of his game either. Poch does coach this and it’s a vital part of our pressing and recapturing of the ball. I believe more that he needs to improve his situational awareness of where he is on the pitch and in the passage of play and thus he can’t always be aggressive in going after the ball. He needs to recognise that sometimes he has to stay on his feet to slow down an attack and allow his team mates to recover their positions.

      I also readily disregard Sherwood’s comments as hot air, but he and Jan obviously had issues. If someone is making disparaging remarks about you that you’ve had a run in with, then it could well fuel your game to prove them wrong. It has been noticeable how much better Jan has been, apart from the hiccups highlighted above, since the Chelsea away game.

  7. matt 14th February 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    It’s funny how we talk about his defending will get better and catch up with his attacking play (a defender) but Danny rose gets slated even when he was the best defender on the field. Danny is never in the media for anything negative, has a great attitude towards the club but we suck the d…k of someone that thinks he’s better than he is. Trust me verts has an ugly spiteful side!!

    • Bretto 15th February 2015 at 5:01 am #

      Matt, I must say that I’ve started to convert to Danny this year. I was definitely slating him last year and the year before when he was at Sunderland on loan. He still has problems with positioning – he drifts out of position and gets sucked in out wide still too often. However he has improved dramatically which would tend to suggest that he is getting proper coaching or that they are suing him more appropriately. He certainly is better at assessing risk and is not as rash as he has been.

      As for Jan attitude all I can say is that he is not the first and definitely not the last footballer to be described that way. There are many players that previously played in the EPL (and are revered by the fans) that could also be described that way. We all do not know the full extent of what went happened with Jan and AVB and Tactics Tim. Despite what some people said at the time, most of the players were still playing for AVB. It was a muddled mess and there was too much pressure to bed in so many players and still be competing. Safe to say there was some disillusionment in the squad after last year – 3 managers in 24 months does not instill confidence in players who came in thinking that they will be pushing for bigger things.

      The fact that they gave Pochettino a 5 year contract told the players that he was there for the long haul, it was just up to Pochettino to show that he has the plan. I think he has so far…and the players have therefore bought in.

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th February 2015 at 10:43 am #

        Great points Bretto. Pochettino’s 5 year deal adds some stability, hopefully, to what has been a very volatile period. The lads who signed last summer probably did so thinking that they were part of AVB’s plans (whether or not he actually wanted them), so to now be on their 3rd coach/manager must be unsettling.

        Agree about Rose, i think he has improved a lot in thelast year, but suffers a bit as he has to cope with Eriksen drifting from the left in to the middle and so has less cover than Walker on the right. This means that when he makes a bad decision it can often be amplified rather than covered up.