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Tottenham Hotspur

Jan Vertonghen impresses both on and off the pitch

The assured defender has been a vital presence in the Spurs' defence, and his interviews after matches give the impression that Thomas Vermaelen might not be the only Belgian captain in North London next season

Jan Vertonghen came to London with a big reputation, he was Ajax captain and had just been voted the Dutch footballer of the year. Tottenham had been chasing his signature for some time, and a protracted wrangle about fees had delayed what had seemed an inevitable transfer for some weeks.

With that to live up to, Vertonghen also found himself positioned as the replacement to Ledley King, whose knee problems finally ended his outstanding playing career this summer. From the moment he came through the door Vertonghen has come across incredibly well when interviewed, and his performances in the Premier League have also given an indication that Spurs have found a new star to build their defence around.

Thrice Vertonghen has been denied clean sheets by late goals, in the matches against Norwich, West Brom and Reading. He had played well in those games, with Friedel's present day reluctance to stray too far from his line when facing corners and free kicks, Vertonghen has often been called upon to provide aerial clearances. In the match against QPR, his second half performance at left back was a revelation, bursting forward to create a lethal partnership with Gareth Bale, and pulling off a goal-saving tackle on Hoilett when Gallas and Caulker were left stranded by Zamora's strength and clever touch.

Whether he stays in that position whilst Assou-Ekotto and Naughton are injured is an interesting question. He starts there for Belgian, where their plethora of excellent centre backs make him more useful on the flank, and clearly has the attacking capability to be real threat.

In the long term his place is undoubtedly in the heart of the defence, but a short term switch may be in the best interests of the team, as moving Bale back blunts Spurs' attack considerably, and Caulker and Dawson can cover in the middle.

With Younes Kaboul unable to play since the Newcastle game, he and Vertonghen have not had a chance to build the partnership that most expect is Villas-Boas's first choice. Since that match Vertonghen has been the leader in the defence, ably supported by the experienced William Gallas.

He has also come out as a leader off the pitch, frequently called upon for post-match interviews where he has given articulate responses about the games he has played in. Given the uncertainty about Michael Dawson's future, and the limited amount of long-serving players at Spurs at the moment, it would be no surprise at all to see Vertonghen made captain as soon as next season.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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