Whilst the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli have won many plaudits for the contribution they’ve made to the Spurs team, this season’s success has been built on the foundation of the league’s best defence. Tom Hackett looks at how the signing of Toby Alderweireld has been crucial to Spurs’ continued success.
Alderweireld joined in 2015 for £11.5m
The signing of the slicked hair Belgium centre back from Atletico Madrid could be argued as the signing of the season due to the impact he has made on the Tottenham defence this season.
We can see from the improvements of the Spurs defensive record that Alderweireld has had an important impact on the team, simply by the fact we have the best defensive record in the league. Spurs have conceded a mere 0.79 goals per game compared to last season’s record of 1.39 per game. We’ve also seen a fall in defensive errors of 0.46 per game from 0.68 per game. This has meant fans have had more faith in the defence this season due to the reliability of Alderweireld in the side, especially in the league where he has been an ever present.
How does Toby stack up to other top centre backs?
When comparing Alderweireld to star centre backs of the other top five teams (Huth, Otamendi, Koscielny, Smalling) we can see that Alderweireld makes the least fouls per game; averaging at 0.29 which is much lower than the second best figure (0.9 by Koscielny). This is exemplified by the Belgian’s exceptional positioning, enabling him to time his challenges to perfection. We also see that Alderweireld makes the joint least errors, alongside Chris Smalling, highlighting just how reliable he is. Alderweireld doesn’t give away cheap goals. The fact that he can be depended upon has made Tottenham incredibly hard to beat this season.
Alderweireld and Lloris have gone a long way to preserving Tottenham’s exemplary defensive record
The impact that Toby has had on the players around him can also be seen. The partnership of Toby and Jan Vertonghen has brought the best out of the latter who has rediscovered his form from the season that he first joined. This can be seen by the connection between the two players and the way that the awareness of each other’s positioning has led to Spurs having the meanest defence in the league. Following the away victory at Crystal Palace, Alan Pardew described the pair as playing “like they’re midfielders”. This is testament to both being ball playing centre-halves, enabling the team to play from the back and press teams higher up the pitch, a feat that previous centre backs, such as Kaboul and Fazio, ultimately failed with.
This has helped Pochettino implement his philosophy of pressing higher up the pitch and controlling the game.
Alderweireld has struck up an impressive partnership with fellow Belgian centre back Jan Vertonghen
Walker back to his brilliant best
Kyle Walker has also looked to have benefitted from the signing of Alderweireld.
Walker has appeared far more solid when playing this season and is arguably having his best season in a Tottenham shirt.
Walker can feel reassured next to Alderweireld, whose ability to cover his teammate entitles him to push forward and be guided on his positioning. This has led to Walker making less fouls this season, averaging only 0.8 fouls per game compared to last seasons of one a game where he would find himself out of position much more regularly.
Walker has commanded the right back role in 2015-16
Toby’s contribution to overall play
Not only has Alderweireld’s defensive contribution improved Tottenham but his aerial threat in the box and his distribution of the ball have also added to Tottenham’s overall style of play. We have seen him score important goals against Manchester City and West Ham and he has been a constant threat from set pieces this season.
Spurs have already beaten last season’s goals from corners record (six) and the threat Alderweireld carries has been a key factor in this.
Spurs have also seen his distribution add another weapon to the arsenal, with his ability to pick a pass with a long ball. This gives the team a different dimension to open up the opposition. We have seen this twice this season as he set up both of Dele Alli’s goals against West Brom and Everton. He is the only centre back within the division to have more than one assist (two) and has an 80% passing completion rate.
As we are approaching the business end of the season the importance of Alderweireld will be even influential with the absence of Vertonghen and it will be crucial that he can maintain his solid partnership with Kevin Wimmer following the Norwich game.
Alderweireld has great hair
Written by Tom Hackett
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