Is Jan Vertonghen Tottenham Hotspur’s Best Left-Back?

Jan Vertonghen

One of the Premier League’s best centre-backs? Jan Vertonghen certainly fits that profile. At the age of 31, he is approaching the twilight of his career. Yet on Wednesday, he gave possibly his greatest performance in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt, and he did it playing at left wing-back.

Jan Vertonghen – From Central Defender to Flying Left-Back

When Harry Redknapp unleashed Gareth Bale from left-back to a marauding left-sided attacker, many thought he had gone mad. Bale wasn’t exactly flourishing in his Spurs career but Redknapp had seen something in the young Welshman to convince him he was ready to spread his wings. Just ask Inter Milan and Maicon how that went and they will be sure to break out in cold sweats.

Fast forward to February 2019 and social media was in meltdown as Mauricio Pochettino revealed his line up for the Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund. ‘Jan Vertonghen at left back?’ went up the cries. In the first half, the tactic didn’t look to be working too well, although nothing was going especially wrong either. Come the second 45 minutes, though, and suddenly the risk paid off.

Pinpoint Accuracy

In the 2018/19 season to date, Tottenham have made 451 crosses with just a 21% rate of accuracy. Consider the players in that team and consequently, it is a statistic that is somewhat hard to fathom. Vertonghen’s cross for Son Heung-min to volley home his side’s second goal was as accurate as you can get. One touch and then a left-footed ball that was full of wizardry. Son’s finish was unerring but it was the cross that made the goal so simple.  Just imagine if Vertonghen could do that week in week out with a fit Harry Kane in the team. Kane would be looking at 40 goals in a season with that kind of service.

Ben Davies, Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen

Ben Davies has a 21% crossing accuracy for Tottenham. Danny Rose this season has a crossing accuracy of 24%. Jan Vertonghen has 22%. These stats confirm why Spurs haven’t scored too many goals from crosses. Yet, with Vertonghen, there was something striking about that Champions League performance that sets him apart from the other two-Davies a competent left back and Rose one of the best on his day and when fully fit. The Belgian hugged the touchline. He rarely passed backwards or sideways, something that Ben Davies is guilty of, and he played with his head up at all times. Looking, observing, scanning his territory.

Then there is his goal. Serge Aurier delivered a Vertonghen-esque delivery into the box and he duly volleyed home. It is hard to imagine Rose or Davies being in that position. The finish was calm and controlled. As he wheeled away and ripped open his imaginary Superman shirt, Pochettino punched the air with delight revraled and a smile that confirmed he had gotten his decision just right.

One Off or New Role for Super Jan?

The game against Dortmund is, of course, only one game; one brilliant performance. Yet there was enough there from the Belgian defender to suggest that he should stay there for the rest of this season. He could cause a lot of damage and even be influential in Spurs’ quest for glory – with injuries to key players, no home ground yet and games every few days, the North London side continue to defy the odds- and even at 31 years-of-age, he could become the next Gareth Bale. Before anyone melts down at that comment, Vertonghen is not going to suddenly replicate Bale’s rise to stardom, but his crossing ability, his strength and surprising pace could make him as influential for the rest of the current season at least.

Is Jan Vertonghen Spurs’ best left back? Time can answer that question. For now, though, it would seem sensible to let him be that left wing back. Jan Vertonghen is already a fabulous central defender. Under his cape, he has started to reveal some hidden superpowers, and he could just be about to become the man who carries Tottenham over the line to Premier League and Champions Glory.

After all, Audere Est Facere. To Dare is to Do. Isn’t it?

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