Spurs have often been described as ‘soft’ in the Premier League era. The North London club have long held a reputation of being a nice footballing side with little mettle or resilience.
This reputation, however, has been eradicated by Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentinian manager has turned Tottenham into a combative, hungry side, who relish the physical vigour’s of the Premier League.
With eight games remaining, Spurs sit in second place, just five points off leaders Leicester.
Toby Alderweireld has been key to this season’s success, and has arguably been the most impressive defender in the entire league. Spurs have acquired a natural leader who, at 27, is coming into his prime.
Alderweireld has followed up on an impressive debut season in the Premier League – where he played on loan at Ronald Koeman’s solid Southampton – with an immense second season in England’s top flight.
Amid some controversy, Spurs snapped up Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid last summer for a reported £11.5 million.
This deal now looks a steal, and Alderweireld has been one of the signings of the season, alongside Dmitri Payet and N’Golo Kanté.
It is hard to currently think of any defence in Europe which would not be improved by acquiring Alderweireld.
It also makes me wonder how the dominant Belgian failed to make the breakthrough at Atletico, only managing 12 appearances for the Madrid club.
He has been a colossus at the heart of a team which may still claim the league title, and has made 40 appearances already this term.
Spurs statistically have the meanest defence in the league, thanks in large part to the formidable partnership between Alderweireld and his Belgian compatriot Jan Vertonghen, and Alderweireld’s form has remained consistent despite a long-term injury to his defensive partner.
Last December, in an interview with The Daily Mail, Toby described himself as a ‘total defender:’
“I am very fortunate to have had the education at Ajax. I am a defender, but I can play the ball. I have a good technique.”
“At Atletico, I learned how to defend. I got the best from both sides and now Tottenham get the benefit from that. I feel I am a total defender.”
On current form, it’s hard to argue with the former Ajax academy graduate.
Whilst Chris Smalling, Ryan Shawcross, Jon Stones and Laurent Koscielny have all impressed at times this sesason, Alderweireld’s has been on a different level, and his form has never wavered.
He also contributes offensively. The Belgian has three goals and two assists this season, and has an impressive WhoScored rating of 7.13 after 40 appearances in a Spurs shirt.
The tough Belgian is equally comfortable in the air or on the ground, and his ability to construct attacks from the back have been key for Spurs this season. His constant aerial threat from corners is an added bonus.
The Belgian has cemented his claim as the finest centre half in England this season, and a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year would be thoroughly deserved.
by David Smith