August 1 2014 Latest news:

Local Weather

Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 22°C

min temp: 16°C

Five-day forecast

Does Spurs star’s impact mean that Benoit should be left back on the bench?

Jan Vertonghen (centre) celebrates his goal at Old Trafford Jan Vertonghen (centre) celebrates his goal at Old Trafford

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
11:57 AM

Jan Vertonghen was Andre Villas-Boas’ fourth-choice left-back when he took up the role as emergency cover against QPR, but now Spurs fans are wondering if the brilliant Belgian should be given the job full-time.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

Two short weeks ago the left-back position appeared to be Tottenham’s weakest spot, as Benoit Assou-Ekotto succumbed to a knee problem and his deputy Kyle Naughton was injured against Lazio.

Plan C was Gareth Bale, and it failed miserably as the marginalised Welshman struggled to make any impact in the first half of the following home game against QPR.

Trailing Rangers 1-0 at half-time, Spurs were booed from the field as they retired to their dressing-room, forcing Andre Villas-Boas to adjust his rearguard again.

The result was that Jan Vertonghen was switched from the heart of the defence to the left-back slot which he occupies for his country, with Steven Caulker replacing him in the centre alongside William Gallas.

The change was a roaring success as Spurs came from behind to win 2-1, with Vertonghen leading the charge for Jermain Defoe’s winning goal and earning the man of the match award.

Now the 25-year-old summer signing has scored in his last two games from full-back, heading home to break the deadlock at Carlisle last Wednesday and then surging forward to open the scoring in the historic 3-2 victory at Old Trafford on Saturday.

In doing so he has proved that he is much more than just a hastily-applied plaster for Tottenham’s injury issue – in fact he may well be the best left-back at the club.

Suddenly, Spurs fans are beginning to wonder whether Plan D should become Plan A, and whether Vertonghen should be asked to play this role on a long-term basis.

It would certainly be difficult to move him on this form. It is difficult to find full-backs who are genuinely comfortable at both ends of the pitch – hence the fuss about Kyle Walker since his emergence at White Hart Lane.

And, for all of Assou-Ekotto’s undoubted qualities, he struggles to provide the same ambition, incision and threat on the left.

The Cameroon international has scored four goals in 186 appearances for Tottenham – one of them being a deflected long-distance strike against West Brom this season. Meanwhile, Vertonghen has scored two in the last week from the same position.

Admittedly, one of them was a header from a set piece at Carlisle – hardly an example of devastating full-back play.

However, that simply underlines the value of having an extra big man in the side in addition to the centre-backs – another aerially dominant 6ft 2ins player who can win headers in both boxes.

Vertonghen has all the qualities needed to oust Assou-Ekotto and build a dangerous, lasting relationship with Gareth Bale on Tottenham’s left flank – a prospect which would currently leave Tottenham supporters drooling.

It is also worth noting that his switch into the wide position has not weakened Spurs’ centre. Twenty-year-old Caulker looks fully capable of forming an effective partnership with Gallas, with Michael Dawson offering cover on the bench – and Younes Kaboul will return to boost the rearguard in the new year.

There is certainly merit to the proposition of Vertonghen’s permanent relocation – but it is very questionable whether the Belgian would be happy with it.

While his impressive, seamless versatility is a major asset to his new club, Vertonghen has always made it clear that he has signed for Tottenham to play in the heart of the defence, and to play a central role in Spurs’ future.

“I think really I’m a central defender,” he said, shortly after his move to north London. “I play left-back in the Belgium team because they already have some great central defenders there.

“I can play there, and in the Belgium team I’m happy that I can play in the team because they have a lot of quality players, but my ambition here is to play in central defence – and I think that’s where they want me to play.”

Given Vertonghen’s burgeoning importance to Villas-Boas’ Tottenham and the fact that Spurs beat a number of rivals to sign him, the Belgian’s own feelings on his role are likely to carry some weight.

Spurs have also sold, released or loaned out four centre-backs during the summer, while Ledley King has retired – and they are planning for a future without 35-year-old Gallas, who is in the final year of his contract.

Vertonghen is that future, and he is likely to return to centre-back in the short-term and the longer-term.

However, Villas-Boas may have been surprised by just how good he is at left-back, and it might well have given him some food for thought.

Whatever happens, it is a nice problem to have.

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

Share this article

0 comments

   Local advertisers

More Tottenham news

Click here to read the Digital Edition of the Ham&High on screen
Use our Wedding site to help you plan your big day!
At WeddingSite we know how much you have to organise for your wedding day, that's why we have designed a set of FREE, simple-to-use tools to make the planning process easy & hassle-free. FIND OUT MORE
Find a date using our online dating and friend finder
You can meet new friends, find romance or simply meet up online with people sharing similar interests and hobbies. FIND OUT MORE
Find a local business using our online directory search
Need a plumber? Or a florist? Or anything else? Search our business directory to find Hampstead businesses in just a few seconds. FIND OUT MORE
Family notices from the Ham&High, with readers' tributes
In memoriam, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, best wishes & special days. FIND OUT MORE