Vertonghen side-steps questions about Spurs future after Norwich defeat
PUBLISHED: 12:37 24 February 2014 | UPDATED: 14:27 24 February 2014
PA Archive/Press Association Images
Jan Vertonghen side-stepped questions about his future after Tottenham’s costly defeat at Norwich dealt a damaging blow to their hopes of Champions League qualification.
The Belgium international swapped Ajax for Spurs in 2012, at a time when the Lilywhites had just finished in the top four but had been robbed of a place at Europe’s top table because Chelsea were crowned kings of the continent and took their place.
Last season Tottenham fell short, coming fifth behind Arsenal on the final day of the season – and yesterday’s loss at Norwich means Tim Sherwood’s side have it all to do this campaign.
Spurs now trail fourth-placed Liverpool by six points and, although Vertonghen says he is fully focused on closing that gap, he has hinted that there could be some soul-searching in the summer if he and his team-mates fail again.
Asked if he would happy to stay at Spurs if they miss out on the Champions League, the defender replied: “Those are always difficult questions. My favourite thing, what I want of course, is to play in the Champions League with Tottenham. That’s what I want so I hope we get in there this year.”
And if Spurs don’t make it? “I can’t say anything about that so let’s see after the end of the season and after the World Cup,” said Vertonghen.
Tottenham seemed to be gaining momentum in their push for a top-four finish after a crucial 1-0 home win over Everton was followed by a comprehensive 4-0 triumph at Newcastle.
However, a 1-0 defeat to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Europa League on Thursday night preceded a hugely damaging 1-0 reverse at Norwich yesterday, and a downbeat Vertonghen says there is no silver lining.
“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “We knew the Liverpool result before the game of course, and we knew that we needed to win this game anyway. We had a couple of chances in the last 20 minutes but it was just not good enough.
“It’s not good in any way. We need to improve the level of our game to compete again for the top places.
“Before, it was the defence not doing well enough, including everybody, and now we’re not scoring enough goals to bounce back from a goal that makes it 1-0 after half-time, or whatever.
“We need to talk as a team about what we need to improve, but there are enough things to improve.
“Mentally I think we’re strong enough. For me maybe we’re one of the best teams mentally because we support each other all the time, but we need to get things right on the pitch. We want to fight for each other.”
It was notable that one of Spurs’ worst performances of the season came immediately after their return to Europa League action.
Indeed, five of Tottenham’s seven Premier League defeats this campaign have come after European outings on the Thursday night.
But Vertonghen said: “No it’s nothing to do with it, because we rested a lot of our important players on Thursday. I think five or six guys even stayed in England.
“We knew this game was important for us so it’s nothing to do with Thursday. I played on Thursday and I feel fit. For me there’s no excuse for this game.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs