Jan Vertonghen made his Spurs debut in Saturday’s frustrating 1-1 draw with West Brom, putting on a thoroughly impressive display.
The Belgian arrived at the Lane after being the 2011-12 Dutch player of the season at Ajax. We knew that we were not only getting a player that was good defensively, but also, as Andre Villas-Boas now requires from his centre backs, comfortable on the ball.
In 90 minutes against the Baggies, Jan Vertonghen gave us a glimpse of what to expect this season. I, like a number of other Spurs fans, was impressed by his performance with and without the ball.
Jan Vertonghen impresses defensively
Jan Vertonghen slotted in alongside William Gallas at the heart of our defence and was impressive all match.
The Belgian made 3 out of 3 ground challenges, intercepted the ball 3 times and also made 5 successful clearances as he had the inside left channel blocked off.
In the last ten minutes, when West Brom were laying siege to our goal, he made a ground tackle, a clearance and a block, all inside the box to keep the Baggies at bay. If only it were Jan Vertonghen clearing the ball rather than Gareth Bale at the death, then maybe we would have been celebrating all three points.
If we check out his defensive dashboard, we can see how the Belgian has the central inside-left channel sewn up.
The orange crosses are his successful ground tackles, the green diamonds his interceptions, the grey line a block and the orange circles are successful clearances.
Worryingly, a lot of this defending was done in our area, but on a positive note he also worked well outside the box too. The only blot on his copybook was two fouls, highlighted by the black triangles, one resulting in a yellow card.
Jan Vertonghen impresses with the ball
Jan Vertonghen also impressed me with the ball at his feet. We knew that he could play a bit and that Andre Villas-Boas requires centre-backs that are not only mobile, but also can work with the ball at their feet.
During his first 90 minutes for Spurs, Vertonghen moved the ball nicely about the park and was effective when he kept things simple.
His preferred passing targets were naturally central defensive partner William Gallas, and also left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
He shifted the ball 11 times to Gallas in order to get the ball moving to the right as we attacked 40% of the time down this flank. Check out the Spurs 1 West Brom 1 match report for more on this.
He shifted the ball out to Benny on ten occasions during the game, but I liked what he was doing. Whilst he got it to Gallas in more defensive positions in our half, when he shifted it to BAE it was in to more attacking positions. This allowed Benny and Bale to get higher up against the West Brom defence, as we were trying to get the Welshman in behind right back Steven Reid.
If we check out Vertonghen’s passing map, we can see that when he was shifting the ball to get it to William Gallas (1) and also out to Assou-Ekotto (2) he was pretty much perfect. When he tried to switch play with long diagonal passes (3), then that is where he turned the ball over.
These long diagonals are a feature of his play when he was trying to force games whilst at Ajax and so we can expect to see them in tight games. Andre Villas-Boas seems comfortbale with him doing this though.
“Jan is very comfortable with the ball and as long as his ambition is displayed within reason and the team is balanced, you have to allow players to express themselves. This is why I say he is capable of making a big impact.
I like him putting longer balls directly in to Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor to speed up our transitions from defence to attack (4). These longer diagonals (3) are maybe better served working the ball directly to William Gallas or Kyle Walker so as not to turn possession over.
Jan Vertonghen shows discipline going forward
It wasn’t just in defence and on the ball that Jan Vertonghen impressed on his Spurs debut, he also looked good getting forward.
If we check out his passes received, we can see how he works straight up from his left-sided central defensive position. This shows good discipline to work his channel and not go roaming around the field, then only to find himself hopelessly out of position if the ball is turned over.
The Belgian’s most impressive moment was in the 22nd minute when he drove forward, putting a pass out to Gareth Bale as he crossed the halfway line. He then continued in to the box and as Bale’s cross was deflected back to him off of a West Brom defender, Vertonghen fired over.
The driving run was good; had the ball come down a little sooner for him, then he could have been celebrating a debut strike as well. Jan Vertonghen netted ten times for Ajax last season, a timely goal is also in his locker.
Jan Vertonghen overall
What impressed me overall was his reading of the game, highlighted by the three interceptions. The sooner he can strike up a partnership with either William Gallas or Younes Kaboul, then we have the makings of a solid centre-back pairing.
Jan Vertonghen came from Ajax with a lot of promise. He may have had mixed feelings on his Spurs’ debut, but for me he really impressed.