Vlad Chiriches arrived at Spurs after a curious on-off-on transfer saga involving Steaua Bucharest’s imprisoned owner.
The 23-year old Romanian international is probably the least well known of our seven summer signings, making him the most intriguing.
Whilst finding it easy to write about what Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue and Christian Eriksen would bring to Spurs having seen them play often. Analysing Vlad Chiriches proved a little more difficult, due to only seeing fleeting glimpses of him in the Europa League last season.
So what will Vlad Chiriches add to the team and how will he change the Spurs backline?
Vlad Chiriches defensively
The natural place to start with any defender. Vlad Chiriches is a solid player who is excellent at both tackling and intercepting the ball.
The most interesting thing about watching him play is how he comes forward to meet the attacker, making his challenge as the ball arrives at the offensive player’s feet.
This allows him to steal the ball, and then initiate attacks by driving forward or by pinging a pass, as we’ll look at more in a minute.
Arriving just as the ball does takes great timing, which would make you think that he fouls quite often. However, in six Europa League matches last season, he committed just 3 fouls whist making 14 tackles and 16 interceptions.
Vlad Chiriches going forward
Arguably the most exciting part of his game is when he is in possession of the ball. Vlad Chiriches is a real quarterback from deep, but he also steps out of defence and in to the midfield, sparking attacks.
A defender who is comfortable with the ball at his feet, he can quickly start transitions forward. This ability to not only stride up the pitch, but also to be able to pass is something Andre Villas-Boas wants from his back four.
There’s a famous clip doing the rounds of his overhead kick against Molde in the group stages of the Europa League last season. Whilst it’s an awesome finish, demonstrating his technical ability and a real eye for the ball. The move all starts with Chiriches striding out of defence and delivering a pass in to wide forward, Adi.
For a defender to be this far up the field is reminiscent of an old school Libero. These were free defenders or sweepers, but just like them, Vlad Chiriches often can explode in to the opposition half with the ball. This catches them unawares and creates overloads from the additional player arriving in an area further forward than expected.
Once he has driven up the field he can then deliver a through ball, such as he did to Adi above and as he does here for Raul Rusescu after another lung-bursting run.
Vlad Chiriches passing
The second way he quickly initiates attacks is through passing over distance. Vlad Chiriches is able to play long passes to his wingers or wide forwards with both feet, whether he is at left or right centre back.
What’s more, he can deliver the ball accurately when he does go long.
Against Molde in the Europa League last season, he was operating from the left side of the centre back pairing. He pinged several balls quickly out to his right back to get the play moving.
In the last 32 of the same competition, he lined up on the right side of the centre back pairing this time against Ajax, as Steaua played a 4-3-3 formation.
A diagonal pass from right to left this time found wide forward, Iasmin Latovlevici, running in behind Ajax right back Ricardo van Rhijn to open the scoring.
Vlad Chiriches is a not only danger to quickly transition the ball from defence in to attack through dribbling, but he can also move it accurately by passing.
Powers of recovery
Exploding forward with the ball or passing it out from the back can mean you are susceptible to be out of position or to turn possession over. There is definitely an element of high risk and reward to his game.
Vlad Chiriches can be guilty of this, but has the necessary speed to recover. What’s more, he seems to read the game well and appreciate where the danger is going to be.
Here he is pressed by the opposing forward causing him to pass the ball straight to an attacker.
He doesn’t panic though and his patience and reading of where the ball will be played allows him to win it back.
His speed of recovery is shown after misjudging and getting underneath a header, as the ball bounces free for the attacker to get in.
However, Chiriches shows his a great turn of pace, as he is able to race back and make a last ditch challenge.
On one hand you have the up side of a player who is able to bring so much going forward. On the other, you have to accept that there will be some repercussions at the back.
Vlad Chiriches is not exempt from these moments, but seems to have good powers of recovery when they happen.
Where will he fit in?
Vlad Chiriches usually lines up on the left side of the centre back pairing for Steaua Bucharest, but can also operate from the right, as he consistently does for the national team.
This ability to play on either side will see him switch depending on whom Andre Villas-Boas pairs him with.
What will be interesting is just how much licence our centre back pairing are given to move out from the back line this season.
Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul both have the ability to burst forward, as highlighted by the Belgian’s goal and assist in Swansea 1 Spurs 2. Vertonghen’s first goal for Tottenham in Man Utd 2 Spurs 3 at Old Trafford also showed his ability to drive up the pitch from deep.
Andre Villas-Boas’ system is based on players being able to switch position, whilst keeping the balance of the formation in tact. This is important, especially with his love of quick transitions, which AVB talks about in the biography “Special too” and where he believes the game in the Premier League is won and lost.
With Etienne Capoue or Sandro as the deepest lying midfielder, this would give licence for either centre back to move forward. The defensive midfielder would then drop in to the back line to cover and keep the formation balanced.
How Vlad Chiriches will change the Spurs back line
Of all the signings in this transfer window, Vlad Chiriches is the most intriguing due to his ability to play similarly to an old school Libero. Sparking moves forward from the back is a very valuable asset in the modern game and he becomes another point from which to launch an attack.
He is extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet and when he does burst out of the back line it can be devastating. His ability to pick a pass or execute a dribble that turns defence quickly in to attack, will give opponents an additional headache to worry about.
Although solid defensively, he does sometimes overplay. This can be a concern, especially at a higher level of football where forward and midfield pressing is savvier. However, he does have an excellent ability to read the game and his speed often gets him out of jams of his own causing.
Vlad Chiriches might be the least well known of our seven summer signings, but he may just become a cult figure at the Lane.