Vertonghen’s pleased to have some consistency alongside Fazio in Spurs defence
22:30 18 December 2014
PA Archive/Press Association Images
Jan Vertonghen is pleased to have some consistency at the heart of the Tottenham defence, and he feels he is developing a strong partnership with Federico Fazio.
Mauricio Pochettino has rotated his centre-backs for much of the season so far, using Vertonghen, Fazio, Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches in various different combinations.
The constant changes did little to aid Spurs’ defence. However, Vertonghen and Fazio have now started five of the last six games together, only being rested for the final Europa League group game against Beskitas, when the Lilywhites had already qualified for the last 32.
Spurs have consequently looked more secure at the back and, while Vertonghen does not mind who he plays with, he feels that improvement is largely because he has time to build a relationship with 6ft 5ins summer signing Fazio.
“I think, like the team, we are improving in every game,” he said. “The manager expects a lot from us as leaders, as a defence.
“He [Fazio] is a beast in the air and I’m less strong in the air than him, but we compensate for each other in that way. I think we’re doing quite well at the moment.
“We talk a lot - he speaks English very well - and I think it’s good for centre-backs to play together for a while. Whether it’s with Younes or Vlad or Eric Dier, it doesn’t really matter but you need to adapt a bit [when your partner changes]. You have to adapt and know what the other one’s going to do. I don’t think centre-backs need as much rest as others, it’s different.”
Pochettino has been working on Spurs’ defensive line in recent weeks, urging them to push up the pitch and take an active, aggressive approach to defending, rather than sitting back and waiting for an attack.
Vertonghen said: “He wants us to press high and to keep a high line to help the midfield and the strikers to press the opponent, because the spaces are smaller, so that’s one thing we’ve been looking at – and the communication.
“I think sometimes you can be a bit lazy as a centre-back when it’s going well, but this manager keeps us focused and keeps us on the front foot for 90 minutes.”
There were more positive signs of an ongoing improvement when Spurs beat Newcastle 4-0 at home in the Capital One Cup quarter-final on Wednesday.
But, asked whether it was the best performance of the season, Vertonghen – who captained the side on the night – said: “Overall no, I don’t think so. I would say Everton [the 2-1 home win at the end of November].
“Obviously we kept a clean sheet [against Newcastle] and we scored four goals but I think they still had too many shots on goal maybe. We need to keep focused.
“I still think we have a long way to go. We’re working well, we’re improving in every game. You take a step back and then take two forward, but we’re definitely improving.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs