How Toby Alderweireld could transform Spurs
As legal wranglings continue between Southampton and Tottenham over Toby Alderweireld and his uncertain status, his new employers have gone ahead, confident that the club conducted affairs in a true and fair manner.
Legalities aside, as we saw last term during his spell at Southampton, Spurs have attained a real talent. But what might the Belgian defender bring to the North Londoners and could he transform their defensive frailities?
Saints' boss Ronald Koeman moved late on deadline day last August to secure Alderweireld on a season-long loan from then Spanish champions, Atletico Madrid. Originally intended to be back-up to Maya Yoshida in The Saints' defence - as partner to Jose Fonte - the Belgian assimilated into Premier League life with ease, pushing the Japanese defender onto the bench.
Alderweireld played no small part in Southampton's sterling start to the 2014/15 campaign, playing over 2200 minutes for The Saints over the course of the season, with nine clean sheets. As the weeks wore on, the Belgian's versatility came to the fore, particularly in the latter stages.
Koeman deployed the defender as a holding midfielder in the absence of the injured or suspended duo of Victor Wanyama or Morgan Schneiderlin. Alderweireld stood out as the physical presence of the Southampton side, even more so than Fonte and with the balance of Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne as offensive full-backs, the unit served The Saints well. Due to his presence and decent pace, Alderweireld was then earmarked by Koeman as the perfect makeshift midfielder to cover any absentees.
Which raises the interesting point of a similarity between the clubs. Spurs like Southampton have attacking flyers on either flank in Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. Spurs have lacked a disciplined, strong performer in the heart of their defence, since the retirement of Ledley King. Younes Kaboul could be the closest association, but the Frenchman was simply to error prone. Could Alderweireld give a Spurs a similar make-up to his tenure at St. Marys?
The big pull in sealing the deal for Alderweireld was that in all likelihood, he will be partnered by his international teammate Jan Vertonghen. Vertonghen was out-of sorts last season, but main the issue was the lack of a constant defensive unit, with a constant tinkering between Federico Fazio, Vlad Chiriches and Eric Dier (who was also shifted into a right-back position) as Vertonghen's partner for The Lily Whites.
With an Alderweireld-Vertonghen partnership, Mauricio Pochettino unites the former teammates from their Eredvisie days. Between 2008-2012 the two played together at Ajax before making their respective moves to Spain and England. As documented. Alderweireld's flexibility could bring a new direction for Spurs, either as a right-back central defender or indeed in central midfielder, but it is the keen bond felt between the two and their on-field chemistry, that could be Spurs' biggest asset next season
First and foremost Toby Alderweireld will be a centre-back but, whether he might come in more use further up the field remains to be seem. Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has to judge that balance right, but if he can, the reported £11.5 million Spurs have spent on Alderweireld, may just be Pochettino's best recruitment yet