With just a single clean sheet in their last 15 Premier League matches, there are fundamental issues are afflicting Tottenham’s rearguard.
While Spurs’ full backs instigate innumerable heart palpitations, the distinct lack of synergy between centre backs is also of paramount concern. We all know about Spurs’ over reliance on their full backs, but the lack of continuity between the pair at the heart of defence demands further inquest.
Tottenham like to hold a high defensive line, which can be a superb strategy. However, it can also be risky, especially for a disconnected, disorganized defensive crew. Davinson Sánchez is an athletic beast, strong, bullish and blessed with electric pace.
But the Colombian is still inexperienced and often caught out of position. Sometimes caught ball watching or slightly dragged toward the ball, Sanchez’s lack of wherewithal lets him and his partner down. While he usually has the pace to make up for his lack of spacial awareness, it splinters the heart of defence, causing a dangerous vortex of space.
That gap is exacerbated ten-fold when Jan Vertonghen is in the team. The 32 year old’s aging legs don’t have enough bounce to combat Sanchez’s impulsiveness. Sanchez’s electric pace, in theory, should complement Vertonghen’s slowness, and vice versa.
Vertonghen’s wealth of experience and stable presence should complement Sanchez’s greenness. Unfortunately, in practicality, it doesn’t work that way. Sanchez is dragged out of position, further exposing Vertonghen’s sluggishness.
Vertonghen needs the presence of a stable partner, someone who doesn’t get pulled, like a puppet, out of position. Yet neither Toby Alderweireld nor Eric Dier have the pace required to make a formidable partnership with the elder statesman. And so the vicious cycle perpetuates.
Too often the centre of Spurs’ defence is caught high, flat and unaware of late runners. The full backs are as culpable as the central two, but it’s the men in the middle responsible for organizing and orchestrating.
Sánchez is in no position, both figuratively and literally, to organize himself let alone the rest of the back line. And Vertonghen is obviously having difficulty reigning in the inexperienced Colombian, too preoccupied by having to cover the space Sánchez has most likely vacated.
And that issue is not exclusive to the Vertonghen-Sanchez partnership.
It percolates each Spurs’ centre back pairing, making exposing our rearguard a relatively rudimentary task.
Until Mauricio Pochettino works out a way to solve this fundamental problem, Spurs will continuously struggle to keep clean sheets. And three centre backs is definitely not a viable solution.