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Spurs looking at Wolfsburg’s Micky van de Ven as defensive reinforcement

What if Jan Vertonghen, but fast?

VfL Wolfsburg v Sport-Club Freiburg - Bundesliga Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Bayer Leverkusen and Burkina Faso defender Edmond Tapsoba was identified as one of the players on Tottenham Hotspur’s new data-driven summer shortlist. Today, thanks to Fabrizio Romano, we have another name to add to that list, also from Germany — Wolfsburg’s Dutch CB Micky van de Ven.

If you’re like me, van de Ven isn’t a name you probably recognize. And there’s a reason for it — two seasons ago van den Ven was playing as a teenager with Volendam in the Dutch second division. Now 21, he’s considered a rising young defensive talent and is being looked at by clubs all over Europe, including Tottenham.

If I were to draw an analogue between van de Ven and a player Spurs fans will know, it’s Jan Vertonghen. Both players are left footed CBs who are products of Dutch football, both are relatively tall (6’4” for Micky, 6’2” for Jan) but neither particularly good in the air, both are excellent with the ball at their feet and have fantastic awareness. But where Vertonghen, bless him, didn’t have a ton of pace and relied on his exquisite defensive positioning, van de Ven is fast and agile, making him potentially an ideal fit for Ange Postecoglou’s high line.

Van de Ven is more than comfortable carrying the ball out of the back — FBRef has him in the 90th percentile in progressive carries with 1.3/match and isn’t afraid to take players on in possession either with 0.58 successful take-ons/match, implying he’s a more than capable dribbler. He also appears to be a plus passer (87.7% completion rate). Van de Ven isn’t one to fly into tackles and he’s not a scoring CB, but considering what we know about both Postecoglou’s progressive tactics and the differing abilities of Cuti Romero and it’s not hard to see how van de Ven might complement the back line. Van de Ven also is multi-positional and is able to also play as a left-sided fullback if needed (also analogous to Vertonghen).

I’ve already talked about Tapsoba and how on paper he appears to be an ideal parter to Cuti under Postecoglou. Well, Tapsoba is the first name listed under FBRef’s “Similar players.” Number two? Clement Lenglet. Now, as tempting as it is to suggest, jokingly, that Tottenham’s newly-hired stats nerds are just looking at free data from FBRef like the rest of us losers, there’s absolutely a profile in place here, and both of these players fit into it.

The advantage to van de Ven is that he’s young — just 22, compared to Tapsoba, who is 24. That youth can be a double-edged sword, however. Micky has developed quickly, but it’s conceivable he could jump from the Eerste Divisie to the Premier League in three seasons, and that’s a HUGE leap. While nobody doubts his obvious skill, there have been some concerns from Bundesliga watchers about his, well, defending, which is a pretty important part of the job description, and brings a player like Davinson Sanchez, also once a young, promising, ball-playing defender, to mind. That said, Postecoglou’s system demands the kinds of progressive skills that van de Ven brings, to the point where he’s okay conceding goals so long as his players are doing what’s being asked of them. And defending can be taught and developed.

Wolfsburg apparently paid about €3.5m for Micky van de Ven in 2021. He’d likely cost Spurs about 10 times that, but that’s still less than Tapsoba, who is ostensibly Spurs’ first choice option. We can each have our preferences for the position, but this is exactly the kind of target Spurs should be going after as they attempt to overhaul their creaky back line. Or maybe they’re considering just buying both? That would be exciting too.

I don’t know if van de Ven is the answer or not, but Spurs do seem to be asking the right questions. And who knows — maybe, in a few years, old Spurs heads like us will be referring to Micky as “Super Van,” both looking to the future and remembering a guy.