Cartilage Free Captain is once again reviewing each of Spurs' first team players and evaluating their 2015-16 season. The series continues today with Tottenham's vice-captain, Jan Vertonghen.
Appearances: 29 (25 in PL, 4 in EL)
Cards: 5 Yellow, 0 Reds
Alter Ego: Janby Alderweirtonghen
What Went Right?
Entering his fourth year with the club, Jan Vertonghen cranked out another wonderfully reliable campaign for Tottenham Hotspur. The 2014-15 season was maybe Vertonghen's least productive. He fell out of favor with Mauricio Pochettino early in the season and, once he regained his rightful place in the starting eleven, had a dubious cast surrounding him. The frailty of the Bentaleb-Mason partnership failed to shield the back, Federico Fazio was molasses and did little to complement Vertonghen's game, and Vlad Chiriches actually played in real matches for the club. YOLO.
Toby Alderweireld got all the buzz this past season, but his Belgium counterpart wasn't too shabby either. In fact, he was downright stupendous in many matches this season. Spurs allowed the fewest goals in the Premier League this season and added thirteen shutouts too. Johnny Verts has certainly had his ups and downs at Tottenham Hotspur over the years, but over four Premier League seasons, not a short run by any standard these days, he has been impeccably solid. Steady and serviceable throughout his tenure, much of Vertonghen's perceived form comes down to who he is paired with and who surrounds him. This season might have been his best with the club since his inaugural campaign, but was his play really that dramatically different?
Vertonghen continued to do what he is really good at this term. He is a smart, gritty, spacial, ball-playing center-back and he is consistent at providing these qualities for whatever side he represents. As expected, he seamlessly melded into a center-back pairing with Toby Alderweireld that was simply the Premier League's best. Absolutely shocking what a competent center-back and a true defensive midfielder could do to help Vertonghen's game. As vice-captain he remains a leader on the field and is clearly well-liked off it. Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld might not be wearing lilywhite without the influence of Vertonghen. He also made his fair share of fifty yard runs upfield with the ball at his feet. Those are always fun.
What went wrong?
Injury was Vertonghen's biggest crux this term. He injured his MCL against Crystal Palace on January 23rd and didn't return till our triumphant victory over Manchester United on April 10th at White Hart Lane. Due to this, he missed thirteen Premier League matches this season.
The knocks in terms of his play are tiny, but worth noting. First, he can sometimes get lost with his marks in crossing situations during the run of play. He is more than decent with his positioning and communication when the ball is in front of him, yet he occasionally struggles with his responsibilities when the attack comes from the flank.
The other issue with him, which is inherently hard to pin on him, was his leadership down the stretch. He actually didn't have dumpster fire performances in the final three games, but being one of the oldest players in the team and one of its longest serving, you'd hope he could have corralled the fears and emotions of his teammates better.
The murmurs of Vertonghen moving onto Barcelona or Manchester United seem to have subsided. At twenty-nine years old he still has a few more years left in his prime, but we probably won't see him be a big transfer target from some massive club going forward. This is a really good thing. He is a solid and consistent player for this club and one with real quality. We should be happy that such a footballer has chosen to give the best years of his career to Tottenham Hotspur. With Toby, Wimmer, and Jan, Spurs central defense is set to be formidable for years to come.
Rating: Four Chirpys