Belgian defensive pairing promising for Tottenham but Eric Dier’s role unclear

Since the days of club legend Ledley King, Tottenham have struggled to field a central defensive pairing that has instilled much confidence in the White Hart Lane faithful.

Of the many inhabitants of the heart of North London club’s rearguard, some have shown promise in recent years but the team have consistently been guilty of lapses in concentration and conceding too many goals to finish in the top four year-on-year.

Michael Dawson was deemed too slow, William Gallas too old, Younes Kaboul simply shambolic.

However, there is hope that ahead of next term Mauricio Pochettino has a pairing that can sure up the Spurs defence and spearhead another attempt at Champions League qualification.

Jan Vertonghen is widely accepted as the most-rounded defender at the Argentine coach’s disposal, with plenty of partners given an opportunity to play alongside him in recent seasons.

It looks like he will have a familiar face beside him in Spurs’ defence next season though, as compatriot Toby Alderweireld has penned a deal to join the North London club.

The former Atlético Madrid man was not given a chance to show what he could do in the Spanish capital, but excelled last term in a miserly Southampton rearguard while on loan.

Alderweireld has showcased the acumen and attitude necessary to be a success in the Premier League already on the south coast and as such he brings experience and steel to the Tottenham team.

Toby Alderweireld and Jan VertonghenWith a continuation of playing alongside compatriot Vertonghen, Spurs have rekindled a stellar working relationship from the pair’s days back at Ajax.

The Belgian pairing was the cornerstone of Frank De Boer’s successful team, with the duo winning two Eredivisie titles together as the crux of the Amsterdam outfit.

Whether Tottenham can have as much success with Vertonghen and Alderweireld playing together remains to be seen, but that mutual understanding of the other’s game, previous track record and nationalistic connection can only be a positive thing.

Dominating Eredivisie opponents is certainly not as daunting a challenge as thwarting the Premier League’s best, but on paper Tottenham look much more watertight with this central defensive partnership.

Young Austrian defender Kevin Wimmer, who has impressed in the Bundesliga over the last 12 months, has also been added to Pochettino’s squad and will add strength in depth.

The future of Federico Fazio and Vlad Chiricheș remain a point of contention but increase the Argentine trainer’s options further.

However, one man who has shown signs of real promise but who faces uncertainty over his role at the club is Eric Dier.

Highly rated due to his presence in English age-grade sides, the 21-year-old returned from his overseas tutelage at Sporting Lisbon last summer and had a positive debut campaign in Premier League football.

Although utilised as a right-back on occasion when Kyle Walker was unavailable, Dier’s best spell of the 2014-15 campaign came when he was offered a chance to play alongside Vertonghen at centre-half.

The England under-21 man still has work to do to fine-tune elements of his game, but the raw pace, dedication and ability on the ball that he displayed are reasons to suggest he can be a top defender in a few years time.

For Dier to progress, regular first-team football is a necessity, but with Alderweireld’s signing this no longer looks to be on the table.

Tipped as a future full England international, Dier will learn from the inevitable mistakes that every player makes in his youth – but his evolution is threatened as Spurs look elsewhere.

Tottenham’s short-term thinking makes sense in terms of signing Alderweireld – a proven performer and an exciting new asset to the team.

However, despite Spurs having as many comprehensive central defensive options now as at any time in the recent memory, Dier’s potential fringe status is a significant drawback.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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