Tottenham Hotspur center back Jan Vertonghen will miss the next six to eight weeks with a knee injury, which means a shake-up in Spurs' defensive line. Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld have started every one of Spurs' league matches this season and their partnership is a big reason why Spurs currently have the best defensive record in the Premier League.
Vertonghen's absence has had many Spurs fans wondering if the club will make any last-minute moves to help shore up the defense in his absence. Not so, says Spurs' manager Mauricio Pochettino. Poche made statements to the media suggesting that not only will Spurs not panic-buy a defender while Vertonghen recovers, but that they will promote teenage English-American defender Cameron Carter-Vickers should the need arise.
"We have a lot of players in defensive positions that can play. We have another youngster from the academy, Cameron Carter-Vickers.
"He’s young but he has enough quality and he’s been training with us from the beginning of the season and playing with the Under-21s.
"I think it’s a good opportunity [for him] to stay with us now more consistently. I don’t expect to [sign a player to] cover Jan Vertonghen, I think we have enough players to cover his injury."
These comments are significant in a couple of ways. First, it reinforces statements by Pochettino from earlier in the window that Spurs will not buy for the sake of buying, and that team unity and cohesiveness are as important as talent when it comes to the purchasing of new players.
Second, this is another indication that Poche trusts the system, and is willing to give promising young players a chance. Carter-Vickers is a very highly regarded young center back who was training and starting with Spurs' U21 side for a while now. He played and started in USA's U20 national team as a 17 year old and played in this summer's U20 World Cup. He's now playing with USA's U23 side. We ranked him as the #3 Tottenham Hotspur youth prospect back in June.
However promising his potential, Carter-Vickers is still only 18 years old and hasn't looked particularly impressive in the few times we've been able to watch him play. Even so, Poche is known for giving young players an opportunity to prove himself, and Carter-Vickers just might get his chance sooner rather than later. Sky Sports journalist Lyall Thomas recently tweeted that Spurs saw Carter-Vickers as the long-term understudy to Toby Alderweireld, and other unconfirmed murmurs suggested the club might have been trying to secure CCV a loan before Vertonghen's injury.
The club are hoping to bring through Cameron Carter-Vickers as right-footed RCB deputy to Alderweireld in long term. https://t.co/1oNmIG9MX1— Lyall Thomas (@SkySportsLyall) January 28, 2016
However, that's not to say that we should expect to see Carter-Vickers playing in the Premier League soon, or even at all. Austrian center back Kevin Wimmer is still the most obvious replacement for Vertonghen and it seems likely that he and Alderweireld will be the first choice pairing for the foreseeable future. Logically, Eric Dier can and probably will also drop back to central defense if needed, and discounting Federico Fazio entirely, Ben Davies can also deputize in a pinch.
However, if something goes catastrophically wrong and Spurs hit a defensive injury crisis, Pochettino's comments suggest that Carter-Vickers is next in line to play, and there are still plenty of non-league opportunities where Carter-Vickers could get some rotation minutes. Who knows: tomorrow's FA Cup match at a League One relegation threatened Colchester might be a good opportunity to throw Carter-Vickers into the fire.