Tottenham: Analysing the Importance of Jan Vertonghen to Andre Villas-Boas' Team
Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen picked up an ankle injury in his side's 3-1 defeat to Sunderland in the Barclay's Asia Tour on Wednesday.
The Belgian slipped over in the shocking pitch conditions in Hong Kong, was stretchered off and now stands a massive doubt to start the season fit.
Journalist Kristof Terreur confirmed the damage of three to four weeks via Twitter, ensuring Vertonghen will miss at least Spurs' first fixture away at Crystal Palace.
This isn't just as simple as Spurs losing a first-choice centre-back and plugging in a new one, and the loss of Vertonghen is nothing short of gutting for Andre Villas-Boas' starting XI.
Vertonghen brings the dynamic playmaking ability from the defensive line that no one else does.
His cameos at left-back—for Ajax, Spurs and Belgium—have allowed him to stretch his legs and bomb forward. His "goal" (later ruled as an own goal) against Manchester United at Old Trafford last season was the epitome of what he does best.
He was always a passer, but his ability to step into midfield and initiate things has grown immeasurably in the past 12 months.
Villas-Boas has no other player on the roster capable of stepping in and bringing what Vertonghen does to the attacking flow of the team. While Steven Caulker is an efficient passer, he won't be going on any winding runs up the pitch.
Tottenham's high defensive line comes under threat, too, having been carefully crafted over the course of 12 months to suit the team.
Hugo Lloris was recruited to play sweeper keeper, and quicker centre-backs were pushed through to ensure they had the legs to commit to pushing up and squeezing the midfield. Remember AVB's ill-fated attempt to do something similar with John Terry?
Younes Kaboul's expected return should provide some relief, but Vertonghen has developed into the leader of the system in a short space of time.
Perhaps Vertonghen's absence can be coped with for the opening fixture, but if his absence stretches over the visit of Swansea and the trip to Arsenal, that could be a serious issue.
AVB has slammed the atrocious state of the pitch in Hong Kong, in which large pools of water formed after a torrential downpour occurred earlier in the day.
Tottenham hardly went without their Superman last season, as he totaled 34 starts in the Premier League.
Will they suffer Vertonghen's absence for the sake of a glamorous preseason event?
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