After limping off against Huddersfield Town and missing Tottenham’s Champions League clash with Barcelona, manager Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed key defender Jan Vertonghen is a long-term absentee for the north London club.
— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) October 5, 2018
“It’s bad news. He could miss two Belgium camps.”
With Pochettino revealing Vertonghen could miss not only the coming international break but also the subsequent one next month, Premier Injuries have set the Belgium international’s expected return date as November 24th.
For Tottenham, that will see him miss eight games in total, including Saturday’s clash with Cardiff, Carabao Cup and Premier League derbies against West Ham, two Champions League Group Stage encounters with PSV, top flight ties versus Wolves and Crystal Palace and perhaps most significantly, Manchester City’s trip to Wembley at the end of October.
He could, however, be back for Chelsea’s turn to visit Tottenham at the end of November – a game that will be vital to the Lilywhites’ hopes of a top four finish this term.
Vertonghen has without a doubt been Pochettino’s most reliable defender during his time as Spurs boss, missing just 29 Premier League games for the Argentine since the start of the 2014/15 season. The Belgian’s importance has only become more prevalent during the last year as well, amid doubts over Toby Alderweireld’s long-term future at the club.
Spurs do have replacements in Vertonghen’s countryman, hugely promising youngster Davinson Sanchez, who made the centre-back role his own for much of last season, and versatile midfielder Eric Dier. But perhaps the most significant consequence of Vertonghen’s injury is that it makes Pochettino’s starting XIs that bit more predictable.
He’s deviated between back threes and back fours over the last few years and indeed this season, fielding Spurs thrice in the Premier League with the former setup and four times with the latter, but Vertonghen’s absence will restrict Pochettino’s ability to mix it up with the same frequency.
Sanchez looks set to come into Tottenham’s starting XI alongside Alderweireld on a permanent basis until Vertonghen’s return, having been in and out of the side during the start of the campaign. Dier could be drafted into defence on occasion too, but he’s actually proved incredibly important in midfield this season, starting all but one of Tottenham’s seven games so far.
That could accordingly see Pochettino turn to Juan Foyth instead. The 20-year-old is still awaiting his Premier League debut but made eight appearances for Spurs across all competitions last season. He was left out of Tottenham’s registered Champions League squad due to injury, so the need to rest and protect Tottenham’s other central defenders may well see him feature in the Premier League in the coming weeks. Additionally, a start against West Ham in the Carabao Cup now seems more than likely.