Toby Alderweireld hasn’t been seen for Tottenham Hotspur since he limped off the pitch during Spurs’ Champions League win over Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium a few weeks ago. Since then, Spurs have been in a slump, having taken only six points from their last seven league matches and showing an uncharacteristic brittleness in their defense.
Alderweireld was at first judged to be out until the new year, but according to Belgian journalist Kristof Terreur, he could be out for significantly longer if he is rushed back to action. Spurs’ physios are taking no chances ahead of an upcoming scan, and are treating Toby extremely carefully.
TA: “I have a serious muscle tear. There’s a big chance of recurrence. If the muscle tears off completely for instance, I would need surgery and it’ll take 14 weeks to recover. That’s why we try to see how we can treat the muscle. In two weeks I’ll undergo a new scan.”— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) December 3, 2017
It’s no secret that Spurs are really missing Toby in their back line, and his absence has contributed to overall team exhaustion. Toby has generally played either in the center of Tottenham’s back three, or, in the matches leading up to his injury, to the left of Davinson Sanchez. Toby’s strength lies in his positioning, his ability to push forward with the ball out of the back, and his passing from deep-lying positions. Spurs have tried to replace him by pushing Eric Dier into central defense, but Dier doesn’t bring the same sort of skills to the position as Toby, and the results have been noticeable.
It’s possible that the scan in a couple of weeks will be good and that the original timeline of having Toby back by January will hold. However, Toby’s quote makes it sound like there’s a real possibility that if he pushes too hard he could significantly delay his recovery. I suspect it will take longer than what was initially forecast for him to come back.
With Davinson Sanchez expected to miss at least one match and possibly three after being sent off against Watford, Spurs are in a defensive bind. Dier, Jan Vertonghen, and teenager Juan Foyth are the only three available senior central defenders on the roster. That’s not great with Spurs entering into the crowded December league fixtures. I’m not sure what this means for Tottenham’s lineups in the first few weeks of December, but with Spurs down two CBs, it seems likely that Mauricio Pochettino may entertain the idea of reverting to the 4-2-3-1 the way he did against Watford this weekend.