Squad Analysis #4 – Jan Vertonghen


It was a sad day when it was confirmed that Ledley King was to retire from the game. While his final season with Tottenham Hotspur wasn't up to the usually high standards of the classy centre-back, supporters were understandably upset over the defender calling time on his career.

Having come through the youth ranks in North London, King quickly endeared himself to the Spurs faithful with a number of superb performances in the heart of the backline under a vast array of managers.

One former manager, following reported interest from fierce rivals Arsenal, demanded £20m, Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell in return for the now 32-year-old, such was the high regard he was held in at White Hart Lane, while Redknapp once described King as a “freak” - in the nicest way possible - due to his ability to not fully train with a ball or his teamates in the days prior to games before turning out a display of the highest standard come matchday.

His impact was massive to those around him, with both Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul benefitting from the tutelage of the former Spurs captain, whose career highest point came in the 2008 League Cup win over Chelsea at Wembley.

Confirmed as an official club ambassador post-retirement, there isn't a man associated with the club that is more befitting of such an esteemed role. A gentleman off the pitch and a stalwart on, the need to secure his successor was of the highest priority following the announcement by the club and player.

While Steven Caulker has the capabilities and potential to follow in the footsteps of King, a readymade replacement was crucial to the club moving forward and, unsurprisingly, Jan Vertonghen was the player chairman Daniel Levy hunted for months as the man to succeed the now former defender.

Ajax may've played hardball in the ensuing negotiations to land the Belgian, but as is the case with anyone that comes up against the Spurs supremo, the Eredivisie side eventually buckled, and back in July, the club confirmed the arrival of Vertonghen.

Having started the opening day defeat to Newcastle United on the bench, the Belgium international was thrust into action following injuries to Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto and, bar sporadic appearances on the substitute bench, has been ever present in the Spurs defence, be it at centre-half or left-back.

But just how has Vertonghen performed in comparison to King? Focusing on the defender, of whom the Belgian was brought into replace, much was made of Ledley's final season, with then manager Redknapp proclaiming that if he could play over 20 games, he'd earn a new playing contract at the club.

Nevertheless, it wasn't to be, with King seeing his performances dip somewhat towards the end of the season as a result of persistant injury and a lack of time between games to recover, especially with the onus on Spurs to secure a top four finish.

As such, the defender only made 21 Premier League appearances last season, playing 1795 minutes of first team action, with Vertonghen eclipsing that figure with 2520 minutes from his 28 games started this season.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 13.29.01

Interestingly, regardless of the lack of playing time for King, both players have the same tackle success percentage of 81.25%, even if Vertonghen has made 80 tackles this season compared to the former defenders' 16.

Furthermore, the defensive exploits of King is highlighted in the air and on the ground, with the 32-year-old winning 64% of his battles in the air and 67% of his encounters on the floor, compared to Vertonghen's 61% and 65%, respectively.

However, it has to be pointed out that Vertonghen has been involved in more ground and aerial 50/50's compared to King at a rate of 185 and 76, with the former Spurs centre-back taking part in 36 and 53, respectively, last season.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 22.29.27

Focussing next on their ability to effectivly recycle possession, Vertonghen's overall pass completion is slightly worse than King's, his 86% just 5% lower than the latter's 91%, however, the former has attempted more open play passes – the Belgian's total of 1326 eclipsing the Englishman's by 833 by a figure of 493.

Yet, it must be pointed out that Vertonghen's pass percentage to the left and right differentiates significantly from King's, as a result of covering Assou-Ekotto at left-back for particular games and for a substantial chunk of the season when the Cameroonian was ruled out with injury.

As a result, the Belgian's 13% passing to the left and 40% to the right was always going to be significantly different compared to King's whose figures read as 20% and 29%, respectively, although this is understandably linked to Vertonghen being left footed and Ledley right.

Furthermore, having operated at left-back on numerous occasions this season, the onus to attack the opposition was going to be in the forefront of Vertonghen's mind, meaning it's no surprise to have seen him attempt one pass per minute compared to King's misleading none.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 22.29.44

In relation to attacking, this is where Vertonghen completely outshines King. Having already netted four times this season, the former boasts an impressive record of netting a goal every 630 minutes, a 100% improvement on the latter, whose zero goals last season means the Belgian inarguably eclipses the former Spurs man.

To add to that, Vertonghen's 19 shots this season is over double that of King's last season, while the former's 10 on target is infinitely better than the latter's zero, again an 100% improvement. However, this prolificacy in front of goal is why Spurs pressed to secure the signature of the Belgian and, as the stats show, he is certainly going a long way to succeeding the now club ambassador.

His stats may not be as impressive as the former defender's last season, but having spent a number of games at left-back, that's to be expected, with the full-backs expected to support more intentfully in attacks, not to mention balancing their original defensive duties to undertake.


Author Profile

Name - Ben McAleer

Twitter - @BenMcAleer1

Click Here For More Articles By This Author