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Vlad Chiriches' arrival has changed the look of the Spurs defence.
The heavy defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool, along with the 3-0 reverse to West Ham United, will have been most galling to goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and the Tottenham defence.
Prior to the Hammers' humbling (hoped to be a blip) and then again until being demolished by City, Spurs were proving a hard team to beat. As of mid-November with 11 games played, they had only conceded six goals in Premier League play and just three in eight cup outings.
Now standing at 25 conceded in the league (and a further three in cups), the Man City and Liverpool embarrassments have ruined the appearance of Spurs defence in the numbers. Performance-wise, though, there has been enough elsewhere to make the aforementioned capitulations all the more inexplicable (though Liverpool was a little more understandable given the makeshift defence).
The Vlad Chiriches-Michael Dawson centre-back partnership has so far worked well.
Though not perfect—individuals errors from Dawson against Fulham and Chiriches versus West Bromwich Albion have cost goals—Newcastle United's 1-0 win in November remains the only time the two have not earned points when starting together. Even then, Loic Remy's winner was more to do with possession being lost in midfield.
The duo have established a decent understanding almost straight away. Chiriches has benefited from Dawson's experienced command, while the Spurs skipper has found a more nimble, but equally committed partner he can rely on. In recent weeks with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose either side of them at full-back, the back four has arguably been the most balanced it has been in a year.
Jan Vertonghen's return from injury will pose a selection dilemma for Tim Sherwood, should Chiriches and Dawson remain in decent form.
The Belgian deputised at left-back for much of the latter part of Andre Villas-Boas' management reign. He has been unlucky to have been played out of his favoured position and subsequently unfit at a point in the campaign when he would have liked to have been establishing some momentum.
Vertonghen likely stands a better chance of winning back a starting place than Younes Kaboul. The 27-year-old's rotten luck with injuries has continued this season, with his one league start coming in the City massacre.
Thrust back in the team for that one, it was always going to be a challenge. Kaboul's misfortune has come in being denied the opportunity his teammates were in rectifying his poor display there. He may need bad luck to befall others for him to get a serious chance again this season.
Sherwood is certainly benefiting from the return of Rose at left-back. After the player's decent start on his reintroduction to the first team, Villas-Boas had to do without his natural aptitude for the position as well as the width and penetration he could have provided going forward. It left his side a little more lopsided than he would have liked.
Zeki Fryers' encouraging displays there have suggested Spurs may have a capable deputy at left-back that does not require Vertonghen to move out wide. Kyle Naughton certainly was not that man, but he has been reliable enough on the opposite flank.
The chance of him becoming Spurs' first-choice right-back are small as long as Walker is around. While the England man was a part of his club's worst thrashings this season, he has also been at the heart of much that has been good.
Walker's maturation as a defender has continued, proving so far to be less prone to lapses in concentration than he was previously. Bar an unlucky deflection that helped Manchester United back to a 2-2 draw last month, he has barely put a foot wrong on his team's better days.
The renewal of his right-flank partnership with Aaron Lennon has also again become one of Spurs' most significant attacking outlets over the last month.
In goal, Lloris has started in all but seven of the club's 31 games this season. Since suffering a head injury in the 0-0 draw with Everton, the keeper has had as dramatic a couple of months as anyone in the Spurs squad.
His daring nature coming off his line has not diminished, though his judgement in situations versus Southampton and Man United were not as smart as in instances earlier this season in games with Arsenal and Cardiff City.
It would be churlish to use this as a stick to beat Lloris to harshly when his overall performances have largely been strong. According to Squawka.com, his average claim success stands at 97 percent—favourable in comparison with his Premier League peers. Only Wojciech Szczesny and Tim Howard have kept more clean sheets than his eight.
Bar almost giving a penalty away, he was in heroic form in the most recent win over United and remains firmly Spurs' first choice.