Tottenham have long had one of the Premier League’s, and the world’s, best centre-back partnerships in the form of their Belgian wall, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. The pair were put together when Alderweireld was signed back in the 2015 summer window (BBC), but now the cracks are showing.
Back in the 2015/16 season, Alderweireld and Vertonghen’s first together at Tottenham, the Lilywhites finished the Premier League having conceded just 35 goals, the joint best in the division alongside Manchester United. Then, in 2016/17, they held the record outright, shipping just 26 goals.
After that, though, the 2017/18 season the first cracks appeared, even if they weren’t too bad at that stage, with Tottenham’s defensive record slipping to the third-best behind the two Manchester clubs and then the most reason completed season their record was the 4th best, and this season things have truly slipped.
So far this season, the Lilywhites have already conceded 12 goals in just eight games, the same number as Aston Villa and more than Brighton and Sheffield United. This isn’t all down to Vertonghen and Alderweireld, but they are certainly culpable for the club’s decline defensively.
When just looking at the defensive record in the Premier League, though, we don’t get the full picture of how poor it’s been this season. In October alone, Spurs have shipped 10 (ten) goals, obviously, the 7-2 against Bayern Munich was woeful, but the 3-0 loss to Brighton was the icing on the cake, and Tottenham’s defiant Belgians have looked weak and shoddy.
The pair are still two fantastic defenders, but they’ve looked slow, off the pace and out of form as the Lilywhites have slipped from a few ropey results into a full-blown crisis. There will always be talk about the pair too, seeing as their contracts expire next summer and come January they’ll both be free to talk to new clubs.
It could well end in tears and after years of solidity at the heart of Tottenham’s defence, the way that this could go is extremely sad, especially considering how long Alderweireld and Vertonghen have played together at the highest level. Hopefully, the club can paper over the cracks long enough to see them off properly, but things are not looking good.