Tottenham’s impressive 2-0 win over fierce rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane was a mark of how far Mauricio Pochettino’s side have come. They easily brushed aside their opponents, and, if it had not have been for a superb performance from goalkeeper Petr Cech, it would have likely been an embarrassing afternoon for the Gunners.
In that win, there were a number of standout performances, with Harry Kane once again netting, Dele Alli was as combative as ever, and Victor Wanyama was tireless in the midfield. This all culminated in a comfortable win, as Tottenham’s midfield and forwards ran the show throughout.
While the title may now be out of reach following Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Everton earlier that day, Spurs should still be incredibly proud of their season, but this should be tinged with disappointment, considering they have lost just three games in the league this term, but they are still likely to end without a trophy.
However, this trophy-less run will surely come to an end soon, with Spurs the best team for the last two seasons. Tottenham have a number of players that can lay a claim to being the best in the league. Hugo Lloris as the goalkeeper, Alli and Kane as midfielder and forward respectively, while many would assume Toby Alderweireld is the best central defender in the league.
However, many Tottenham fans have taken to calling Jan Vertonghen their best defender in recent weeks, but what do the stats say?
The stats show that it has been a good campaign for Vertonghen. On top of the above, the Belgian has made 29 league appearances this term, winning 21 games, and only tasting defeat twice. Alderweireld on the other hand has played 26 Premier League games, winning 19 and losing twice, therefore, as winning ratios go, they are fairly similar.
With the ball, too, they are very different players for Tottenham. Alderweireld is lauded as a defender that loves to get forward and move the ball around, with his racking incisive long-balls a feature of his game. However, his passing stats pail in comparison to Vertonghen, who averages over 13 more passes a game than Alderwerield (61.66 compared to 48.62).
It is incredibly easy to say one defender is the best in the league, or better than his defensive partner. If all comparisons were done on physical stats, then Alderweireld would come out on top as the better defender. However, when taking into account the more tactical side of the game, and the ability to play with the ball at their feet, which has become more important now, Vertonghen would come out on top.
In fairness, perhaps Vertonghen is a defensive-midfielder at heart, especially when he can hit two shots like this while under pressure:
— Nico Apraiz (@nicoeac) 1 May 2017
Against Arsenal, Vertonghen once again displayed his worth to the side; he was superb defensively as the Beligum defender cut out a lot of the opposition’s good play, while he was able to then play an intelligent pass to a teammate, and thus start an attack. His ability to pre-empt danger and cut it out, distribute intelligently and more than hold his own in one-on-one battles have been features of his play this season.
Whether Vertonghen has been more impressive than Alderweireld is debatable and, in all truth, most would come down on the latter’s side, with Alderweireld a better all round defender, and Vertonghen a better ball-player.
It’s been said though that comparisons are odious, and it is difficult to argue with this. Comparing a ball playing defender to an old style one is pointless, with their relevance and importance to the team difficult to compare.
Therefore, there isn’t much point in claiming Vetonghen is better, or vice-versa. Perhaps Tottenham’s fans should be contented with the fact they have two of the best defenders in the world playing for them, in what is one of the best partnerships.