For the first time in the Premier League this season, Tottenham’s centre-back pairing will have a new look about it when they take on Norwich in midweek.
The club have revealed that Jan Vertonghen suffered medial knee ligament damage against Crystal Palace last time out. It’s an injury that will rule the Belgian out for a couple of months at the very least.
Vertonghen’s ever-present partnership with compatriot Toby Alderweireld at the heart of Spurs’ defence has led to the north Londoners owning the top-flight’s best record at the back.
Their consistent appearances may have been taken as a given at White Hart Lane, but Mauricio Pochettino must now find a way to maintain defensive standards without one half of the dependable duo.
Here are three ways he could manage it:
Re-house Eric Dier
The recently-capped England man has shone while performing a key role protecting the central defenders from midfield this season. However, he was bought as a centre-back and has more experience in the position than Kevin Wimmer.
Moving him back presents another problem though, because no other players in Tottenham’s squad have the discipline or positional sense to perform the holding role.
Ryan Mason is currently out injured but is a tyrant that presses all over the pitch. Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll are both ball-playing types that lack the muscle to anchor the midfield, while Mousa Dembele has proved to be a vital cog when given license to push forward.
If Pochettino wants to keep Dier in midfield, then his other option is to put some faith in Wimmer.
The Austrian’s start to life at the Lane has been staggered having been used entirely for the cup competitions until replacing Vertonghen at Selhurst Park at the weekend.
Throwing him straight into the Premier League fire may be seen as a risk, but Pochettino clearly has no qualms about testing out his young players in that environment and it helps the summer signing that four of his six Spurs appearances have come alongside Alderweireld.
Dip into the transfer market
Trialling either of the former two options is almost certainly the way Pochettino will go, but Vertonghen’s injury raises concerns about the Lilywhites’ squad depth.
Obvious gaps in the playing staff have been somewhat papered over by performances, but the entire spine of the side has come to be heavily relied upon by the Argentine.
Vertonghen’s absence brings Federico Fazio out from the cold as the backup option at the back, unless Pochettino promotes yet another academy prospect in his place.
Neither choice looks the most sturdy with the club’s 1/3-rated top-four challenge reaching the pointy end and a short-term loan deal for a more senior player (Nemanja Vidic or Andrea Ranocchia perhaps) may be explored.
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