Tottenham End of Season Review: Jan Vertonghen

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on January 3, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on January 3, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images) /

One of the major talking points of Tottenham’s magnificent season this year has been the improvement of the defense. While Toby Alderweireld has (justifiably) gotten most of the publicity this season, his countryman, Jan Vertonghen, deserves just as much praise for his solidity and consistency at the center of defense.

Knowing that the defense was one of the strongest aspects of this team, Tottenham supporters held their collective breath when Vertonghen needed to be subbed off in the January match at Selhurst Park.

Discounting the match against Newcastle, with Vertonghen in the line up, Tottenham went 15-12-5 across all competitions, giving up 28 goals along the way, and keeping 10 clean sheets in 32 total matches. This resulted in an average goals per game of less than one (.88) and is a very respectable stat for any central defender.

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What is also important to note is that in Vertonghen’s absence the average goals per game does increase slightly, but nothing forcing any major panic. So while Kevin Wimmer certainly was able to come in and do an admirable job, in the 15 matches that he started in Vertonghen’s absence, 14 goals were conceded, giving the team a .93 average goals conceded per game. While it’s unfair to say those goals are a direct result of Kevin Wimmer, the statistic is certainly an interesting piece to the puzzle.

Throughout the season Vertonghen showed a certain level of calmness and reliability from the center of defense. He is almost always responsible and very seldom a reliability with the ball at his feet. His 87.7% pass completion  rating ranks him 17th overall in the Premier League. Allowing Tottenham to build from the back, combined with the accuracy of Alderweireld’s long balls gives the offense a multi dimensional potency and leaves opposing teams with their hands full when it comes to defending.

Vertonghen also committed an average of .6 fouls per game, putting him 84th overall in the Premier League; while only earning 5 yellow cards all season. Staying out of the referee’s book is absolutely crucial for a central defender to be successful. Many of his challenges happen in and around the penalty area, so any rash or reckless challenges lead either to penalty kicks or free kicks from dangerous areas. Vertonghen has done extremely well to avoid both of these situations on a regular basis.

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Defenders, and especially center backs, aren’t exactly known for their well placed touches. Vertonghen on the other hand, seems to be confident and comfortable in possession. His average of .3 unsuccessful touches per game ranks him 46th overall in the Premier league. Obviously defenders are not always put under as much pressure as other players or receiving the ball in difficult areas, but the stat is not insignificant. Vertonghen does well enough on the ball and therefore is able to mop up opponents’ chances, as well as calmly start Tottenham attacks.

Lastly, Vertonghen is dispossessed at a rate of .1 times per game, putting him 13th in the Premier League. Again, Vertonghen being able to not get caught in possession allows his teammates around him to get where they need to be and not have to worry about their second to last line of defense coughing the ball up cheaply. And that trust is especially important for the full-backs. This way they know they won’t be called on to clean up any unforced Vertonghen errors and can bomb forward themselves.

The biggest criticism of Vertonghen’s game, however comes in his aerials statistics. At 1.9 victories per game Vertonghen is ranked 73rd in the Premier League. Aerial duels, especially from set pieces, are always more difficult for the defending player, however winning just under two per game simply isn’t good enough. On top of that, Vertonghen’s overall winning percentage is 61%, which is just below the Premier League central defender average of 62%. It’s not a huge criticism by any stretch, but it is certainly something that could be improved on.

Next: Tottenham End of Season Review: Hugo Lloris

Vertonghen’s season is somewhat hard to assess because of his injury. He has by no means dropped off after returning back the starting XI, however the Premier League sample size makes it difficult to gauge him on a full season of work. He is an absolute staple in the starting XI and other than Lloris, is the most important leader that Tottenham have. Spurs are lucky to have a center back pairing like they do and he has been one important half of that pairing in 2015-2016.

Overall, however, Vertonghen gets a “B” as his injury shortened season means the sample size just wasn’t all there. On top of that, Alderweireld came in this year and absolutely stole the show. Vertonghen played an important role, but here’s hoping the injury bug stays away next season.

Final Grade: B