Tottenham center-back Jan Vertonghen explains that his initial fear upon suffering an ankle injury wasn’t that he felt pain. But that he would be sidelined indefinitely for the second consecutive season.
Whenever an athlete suffers an injury, no matter how minor or major it is, their initial thought circulates around the immediate pain that they’re suffering.
How could you not? It’s only natural to illicit a negative response when you know something could potentially be broken and you could be sidelined for weeks or months as you recover.
When Jan Vertonghen rolled his ankle against West Brom, he was seen screaming in agony. The pain was unbearable surely, but that apparently wasn’t the case.
Oddly enough, Vertonghen’s distraught on the touchline after getting injured wasn’t one of pain, it was the thought of missing games. Again.
Which makes sense, as the Belgian defender has been down this road before.
Indeed, on the heels of challenging league leaders Leicester for the Premier League title last season, Vertonghen suffered a knee injury against Crystal Palace on January 23rd.
Tottenham would go on to win that match 3-1 at Selhurst Park, but winning came second on everybody’s mind. To lose a valuable member of Spurs’ number one ranked defense for over two months was cause for concern.
This is why when the 29-year-old got hurt again last month, and ironically around the same time as last year, Jan Vertonghen was visibly upset that he would be sidelined once again.
“I was very upset when I was injured because everyone could feel the buzz around the team at that time,” Vertonghen explained on Tottenham’s official website.
“We’d just beaten Chelsea and we’re having a great month. In fact, that win against West Brom [4-0] might have been the best performance so far this season.”
“I felt so good, I was so happy with everything on and off the pitch and then the injury happened and the way it happened – ankle again, same problem.”
“I know what it takes to come back from that injury and that’s what goes through your mind, not the pain, more like ‘I have to go through all that again’. You just want to come back as quickly as possible.”
“I knew exactly what I’d done and it was the same at the European Championships in the summer. I knew it was likely to be four to six weeks and immediately I was thinking that I was going to miss some great games like Manchester City, Liverpool, [Man] United.”
“We were on a great run and it was sheer disappointment at that moment.”
Last season, when Jan Vertonghen was sidelined for over two months, he missed nine league fixtures but his absence wasn’t exactly felt as Kevin Wimmer stepped in admirably to fill the void left by the Belgian international.
This time around, it was a much different story. Losing Vertonghen for a little over a month this season saw Mauricio Pochettino’s side slump through dismal performances despite picking up some much needed wins to catch up to Chelsea.
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Because Jan Vertonghen was out, it would have been easy to pencil in Wimmer as a starter again like last year.
But with Pochettino utilizing a back three system and not having much faith in Kevin Wimmer this season, that wasn’t the case.
Instead, the Argentine returned to his patent 4-2-3-1 formation and played Eric Dier alongside Toby Alderweireld.
The result was not good, to say the least.
Spurs were unable to control matches like they had done previously in a 3-4-2-1 system that proved highly successful from mid-December until mid-January when Vertonghen got injured.
To see the Belgian return during Spurs’ FA Cup fifth round tie against Fulham after a month away, and go the distance for 90 minutes, it seemed as if everything was back to normal.
Not only did Tottenham beat their London rivals and advance to the FA Cup quarter-finals, but they returned to their dominant ways after two poor performances against Liverpool and Gent prior to last Sunday’s cup tie.
According to Jan Vertonghen, the reason why things clicked once again was because the team’s confidence was high contrary to popular belief after two consecutive losses.
“You know, it helps because the team is so strong,” Vertonghen added. “I remember when I came back against [Man] United last season we were on a great run and confidence was so high it was easy to step back in.”
“To be fair, it was the same on Sunday, another great team performance.”
“We defended well, limited them [Fulham] to just one or two chances and created a lot of chances as well, 10 at least. We kept the ball, we were sharp and it was a very good game to come back.”
“It’s a game where I must admit you are a little more selfish than normal, you think ‘I have to get through this game’ because I’d been out five weeks and you aim for a game where you return. I was a little nervous before the game but it went well.”
With Jan Vertonghen happy to be back in the fold, Mauricio Pochettino will be delighted as well because he can now field his 4-2-3-1 formation with more confidence.
Knowing full well that his team’s defense won’t be as susceptible as it was for the past month. Not to mention having more confidence after picking up a much needed win.