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Tottenham Hotspur

Should Kevin Wimmer replace Jan Vertonghen in the Spurs first team?

After a very impressive spell last season, where first-choice centreback Jan Vertonghen spent three months injured, it looked like Kevin Wimmer could well have prolonged Vertonghen’s time out of the first team after a string of very impressive performances. Bought for just under £5 million, the Austrian proved to be a very astute purchase, and was unfazed by his time in the first team, in a string of games that included the North London derby and away to Manchester City.

However, an argument could be made that he should replace Jan Vertonghen in Spurs’ starting line-up. Although currently limited by minor injuries, when fully fit, Wimmer is a very capable defender, and one whose pace, physicality and strong presence would work well with Toby Alderweireld’s world class defensive abilities. At a mere 23 years of age, Wimmer has lots of time to develop, and playing alongside a defender as experienced as the Belgian would really help him to do so at a frightening pace.

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Comparatively, aged 29, one would expect Vertonghen to be the finished article by now, and while he’s still a very talented defender, ‘Super Jan’ is prone to the occasional costly error, and has struggled to adapt to the new rules about holding shirts in the penalty box from set pieces. The Belgian is a scrappy defender, and there is a risk that he will cost Spurs if he cannot change the way he marks from set pieces or tussles with forwards.

Wimmer, it seems, is the polar opposite. His defensive style is more similar to that of Alderweireld’s; both tackle more cleanly than Vertonghen, although all three have similar ball-playing abilities and are suited to a high pressing system. In terms of stats, Spurs conceded 0.7 goals per game with Wimmer in the league, and 0.75 goals per game with Vertonghen in 2015/16.

However, football moves on, as do its rules, and perhaps the Austrian is the one better suited to adapt to the rule changes. Vertonghen has been known to struggle against big, physical strikers – the sort in abundance in the Premier League – from time to time, whilst Wimmer is more competent in this regard. For this reason, it would be unsurprising to see both used frequently this season, either alongside the impervious Toby Alderweireld or as a partnership themselves, although the fact that both are left-footed may make this outcome slightly less likely.

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With Spurs’ European commitments and cup games on top of the Premier League action, Wimmer will play a big role in Spurs’ season, and that is a certainty. The fourth choice centre-back, Cameron Carter-Vickers, may also get game time, especially against lesser opposition in the early rounds of cup fixtures. As for Wimmer’s league commitments, whilst it appears that manager Mauricio Pochettino favours the Belgian pair, that may yet change if Wimmer can impress, or Vertonghen proves a liability.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne

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