Tottenham’s defensive record is one of the best in the league this season and the centre-back pairing of Alderweireld and Vertonghen are the unsung heroes of Pochettino’s side. Their latest victory against Sunderland displayed the in-form qualities of their star men, Harry Kane and Cristian Eriksen, but their defence has been just as important this season.
Spurs are currently the only side in the Premier League to have conceded less than 20 goals in 2015-16 and their goal difference is only second to Manchester City’s. The two centre-backs have notched up 21 appearances each – only Harry Kane has played as many games for Tottenham this season. In contrast to Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, who have had several combinations of centre-back pairings, Tottenham’s defence has remained relatively unchanged. Kyle Walker is a regular feature at right-back, whilst Danny Rose and Ben Davies have both represented regularly at left-back.
As well as the impressive performances from Tottenham’s centre-backs, the midfield two of Moussa Dembele and Eric Dier provide excellent protection for the back four. Based on this season’s stats, Dier tops the ratings for aerials won and aggression within the Tottenham squad – an indication of his defensive work. Dembele has been equally as effective, though he offers more in attack. The Belgian is currently the highest rated in the squad too, beating Kane, Eriksen, Alli and Vertonghen to the peak.
Consistency has played a big part in the success of Tottenham’s defensive record this season. Pochettino’s selection has been quite predictable – often naming the same side. Spurs have played fluently under the 4-2-3-1 formation which allows Lamela, Eriksen and Alli to play with freedom in attack. With a strong back four, Tottenham have been able to defend with confidence and are dangerous on the counterattack with the pace of their full-backs.
Tottenham’s pressing is effective off the ball and this allows them to win possession back in dangerous positions. Their attacking style means they like to play the offside trap – often having a high defensive line. This is where they’ve been known to concede goals but with the best defensive record in the league, it’s clearly working more often that not.
Their goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, is one of the best in the league and this has been reflected in the number of clean sheets Tottenham have kept so far this season. They’ve had a total of seven so far, with only Watford, Stoke, Arsenal and Manchester City having more. In 21 appearances, Lloris and his defence have only conceded 17 goals – only Joe Hart, who has made just 19 appearances, has conceded fewer.
Tottenham have only lost three games this season but eight draws have seen them squander leads on too many occasions. However, they still currently sit in the top four and look well balanced to stay in European contention for the rest of the season.
Jan Vertonghen joined Tottenham in 2012 for £12m and the Belgium international has produced some great performances for Tottenham since his arrival. The centre-back has made 280 league appearances in the last three years and has already played in over 30 games for the club this season. The 28 year old Belgium international has had a great partnership with Toby Alderweireld and if Spurs hope to achieve Champions League qualification, their form and fitness is vital.
Vertonghen’s international partner, Alderweireld, joined Tottenham in the summer for £11.5m and his impact on the squad has been noticeable from the start of the season. He’s made 21 league appearances since joining and has added two goals to his name as his aerial presence has given Tottenham another dimension from set pieces.
In Lloris, Vertonghen and Alderweireld, Tottenham have one of the strongest defensive line-ups in the league. Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester City’s success largely comes from their attacking prowess so if Tottenham can maintain their high defensive standards, they’ll give the top clubs a run for their money.