This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
Long-serving Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen has often been one of the first names on the team-sheet under Mauricio Pochettino, but it has been a different story in recent weeks.
Eyebrows were raised when the 32-year-old was left out of the squad completely for the opening day Premier League clash against Aston Villa despite being available, with the Argentine manager saying it was a tactical decision.
The centre-back did return to the 18 for the clashes against Manchester City and Newcastle United, but he was an unused substitute in both with a partnership of Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld preferred at the heart of the backline.
Vertonghen was linked with a move away from Spurs – most notably to Bayer Leverkusen – before the European deadline with less than a year remaining on his contract, but he ended up staying in north London and his fortunes appear to have changed for the better since.
Kyle Walker-Peters’ absence saw him start alongside international teammate Alderweireld in the 2-2 draw against Arsenal, and he once again played with him – and Thomas Vermaelen – in Belgium’s 4-0 win against Scotland on Monday.
The Daily Mail reported that one of the main issues over the summer was his pre-season fitness, but he put in a classy performance at Hampden Park.
As well as making one interception and one tackle on what was a relatively comfortable evening for Roberto Martinez’s men, according to SofaScore, he also won three of the four duels he faced and was accurate with six of the seven long balls he attempted – vintage Vertonghen, then.
There was certainly no fitness issues obvious here as the 32-year-old completed 91% of his passes, and his previous few outings surely mean it is impossible for Pochettino to leave him out again when they host Crystal Palace at the weekend.
The former Southampton boss’ difficult decision may well be helped by the fact that Sanchez won’t arrive back in England with much time to spare following his own international exerts for Colombia, but he faces a real dilemma beyond that.