Three tackles, 0 fouls: Tottenham’s Federico Fazio shows true class against Manchester United

Federico Fazio has overcome early criticism to cement himself at the heart of Tottenham Hotspur’s defence.

Fazio arrived at White Hart Lane at the start of the season from La Liga side Sevilla, and it looked as if his signing was a huge mistake.

Struggling to adapt to English football, the Argentine international was sent off on his debut against Manchester City, before receiving his second red card less than a month later in the closing stages of a 2-1 away win over Asteras Tripoli in the Europa League.

However, he has started to find some consistency alongside Jan Vertonghen in the heart of the Spurs defence, and, with his increased game time, he is staking the claim as the Lilywhites best performing defender this season. A series of strong performances - including excellent displays against Burnley, Crystal Palace and Leicester - were capped by the showing he made as the North Londoners fought to a 0-0 draw with Manchester United at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Facing a side with the striking talent of Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Wayne Rooney was always going to be hard - and Fazio has goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to thank for the clean sheet - but the 27-year-old excelled alongside Vertonghen, and it was only the performance of the two goalkeepers that prevented him from surely claiming the man of the match award.

Having been the scapegoat of all Mauricio Pochettino’s faults at the start of the season, Fazio is starting to prove himself in the top flight, and his form has coincided with Pochettino seemingly starting to get the best out of his squad - culminating with the showing against United.

  Tackles AttemptedTackles CompletedInterceptionsDuels WonAerials WonFouls
Federico Fazio 3 3 4 14 10 0

Fazio was a solid presence in the heart of the back-line, completing three tackles and four interceptions, but it is his aerial strength that shines through from his performance at White Hart Lane. Winning 10 aerial duels is remarkably impressive, and he provides a more physical presence alongside the faster, more ball-playing Vertonghen. They seem to excel playing with one another, as their skill sets create the ultimate defensive unit, and Fazio’s strength in defence allows the Belgian international to roam around the defensive third and into the midfield - playing as something of a libero in the Lilywhites ranks.

Whilst Fazio’s numbers are impressive, it is the lack of one number that truly shows the improvement he has made in the recent weeks. Despite winning as many duels as he did - both on the ground and in the air - the defender failed to commit a single foul. A vast change from the clumsy, lumbering centre-half on show following his transfer, the Argentine now looks to be reading the game well and timing every action with precision - something that cannot be said of his more rash teammates.

Having been rightfully derided for his early performances in a white shirt, it was unfair to blame Fazio for all of Spurs’s early season problems, especially considering he was given no time to prove himself. Thankfully for the side, Pochettino kept faith in his summer signing, and he has been rewarded with performances that have brought a new sense of defensive security to White Hart Lane - something not associated with Tottenham in recent years.

Register for TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR team updates

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch