Valencia defender Jeremy Mathieu has been highlighted by the Tottenham Hotspur management as a possible replacement for Jan Vertonghen if the Belgian international is sold in the summer transfer window, per Paul Brown at the Daily Star, so here is a scouting report on Mathieu.
Mathieu vs. Vertonghen
Mathieu, a 30-year-old 6'4" French international, can play at centre-back and left-back, which mirrors Vertonghen.
|League Only||Mathieu 13-14||Vertonghen 13-14||Vertonghen 12-13|
|Tackles Per Game||1.8||1.5||3.1|
|Fouls Per Game||0.6||0.6||0.7|
|Interceptions Per Game||2.1||1.9||2.9|
|Passes Per Game||44.8||44.4||47.8|
|Pass Completion %||82.8||82.7||87.1|
|Long Passes Per Game||4.6||3.1||3.6|
|Long Pass Completion %||61.5||53.0||63.7|
Mathieu outperforms Vertonghen in tackles per game, interceptions per game, passes per game, pass completion percentage, long passes per game and long pass completion percentage this season.
Subjectively speaking, Vertonghen is playing the worst football of his career and his pub league-level mistake which allowed Chelsea centre-forward Samuel Eto'o to score during the Blues' 4-0 win over Spurs sums up Vertonghen's season.
Take a look at how drastically Vertonghen's defensive productivity has deteriorated compared to his performances in the Premier League last season.
- 1.6 fewer tackles per game.
- 1.0 fewer interceptions per game.
- 4.4 percent less accurate in pass completion.
- 10.7 percent less accurate in long pass completion.
What is the source of Vertonghen's dip in form?
The first season, he was willing to grit his teeth and play out of position at left-back, though he did speak his mind (no surprise there), per Jonathan Liew at the Telegraph: "For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back."
This season Vertonghen made such a concerted effort to voice his opposition to being a fill-in left-back (due to Spurs' injury crisis in that position) that then-manager Andre Villas-Boas had to clarify the situation to quash rumours of Vertonghen's unhappiness, per Miguel Delaney at ESPN FC.
Vertonghen has found himself in an unhealthy environment: Spurs' expensive summer signings are not living up to the billing. Villas-Boas was dismissed. Upgrading Tim Sherwood's status seems pointless as there are persistent reports of him being replaced by Louis van Gaal, per Matt Law at the Telegraph.
It is not a conducive setting in which to bring the best out of Vertonghen.
Would he leave Spurs?
"What I want is to be playing in the [UEFA] Champions League with Tottenham. Do I have a decision to make if we don't? I can't say anything about that," Vertonghen said, per Sky Sports. "Let's see after the end of the season, after the [FIFA] World Cup."
Translation Speculation: If Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League and Vertonghen makes the World Cup all-star squad, he will try to force a move away in the summer transfer window.
Let's say that happens; well, could Mathieu replace Vertonghen? No.
Mathieu's main weakness is his shoddy defensive positioning, which is why he often commits dumbfounding mistakes.
In Valencia's 4-1 defeat to Villarreal, he attempted to play out of defence.
However, he had the ball stripped by Villarreal centre-forward Ikechukwu Uche, who was going away from goal.
Yet, in an attempt to make amends for giving up the ball, Mathieu rashly clipped Uche and conceded a penalty (former Tottenham player Giovani dos Santos failed to convert the ensuing spot-kick for Villarreal).
During Valencia's 3-1 defeat to Espanyol, Mathieu failed to mark Espanyol right attacking midfielder Pizzi, who sent in a cross for left attacking midfielder Simao and he went close to scoring.
In another play, Mathieu accidentally passed the ball to Simao, but rather than instantly retreat deep into the left-back zone, Mathieu was ball-watching.
Mathieu was caught in no man's land: He did not press Pizzi nor was the left-back slot covered.
A simple give-and-go resulted in Simao raiding Valencia's vacant left flank.
When Simao swung in a cross from a corner, Mathieu was not close enough to Espanyol defensive midfielder David Lopez.
Mathieu gave the impression he was contesting the header, but Lopez felt no pressure and emphatically headed past Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves.
In the corresponding fixture against Espanyol, this time a 2-2 draw, Mathieu was left flat-footed by the pace and skill of Espanyol centre-forward Jhon Cordoba, who laced a shot past Alves.
Consequently, he clumsily deflected the ball straight into the path of Valladolid right-back Alcatraz, who blasted the ball past Alves.
Mathieu is frequently caught out of position, has a tendency to make errors, is an unreliable marker and cannot adjust to disadvantageous situations.
Remember: This is La Liga, a league that is played at a slower tempo than the Premier League, so how can Mathieu thrive in the Premier League when he is often a step or two behind in Spain?
At 30 years of age, he has no upside and is an average defender at best.
If Mathieu is signed, he could be Spurs' answer to Manchester City's ill-starred Martin Demichelis.
Statistics via WhoScored