Nothing to fear: Why Tottenham should consider playing 25-year-old as emergency centre-back
COMMENT By Matt Farr
Tottenham were dealt a blow in their pursuit of Premier League title glory in the match against rivals Manchester City on Saturday.
Drawing 2-2 away wasn’t so bad, but Spurs lost star defender Jan Vertonghen to an ankle injury, and the Belgium international is likely to miss the next six weeks.
Meanwhile, there are concerns over the fitness of both Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose, who came out of the clash at the Etihad a little worse for wear.
That could leave Mauricio Pochettino desperately short of defensive options, and he could be forced to take evasive measures. However, after performing well in the role during the latter stages of the Man City stalemate, Victor Wanyama could be the man to see them come through relatively unscathed.
Despite shipping two goals in a game for the first time since the defeat to Chelsea in November, Tottenham still boast one of the best defensive records in the Premier League this season.
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From their opening 22 matches, their defence has been breached just 16 times – only Chelsea (15) have conceded fewer.
One of the main reasons for that successful record has been Victor Wanyama. Since joining the club from Southampton in the summer, the 25-year-old is the only member of the Tottenham squad that has played in every single Premier League game this term.
Why? Because he has been phenomenal. The likes of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane have received endless praise for their efforts in the final-third, but they would not have been able to perform as well as they have without Wanyama.
The Kenya star has acted as protective shield to the Spurs defence, and his presence has allowed Tottenham’s more attacking players to push further forward with greater freedom, in the knowledge that Wanyama has them covered.
He and Mousa Dembele have formed a formidable partnership in the heart of the midfield, but that may have to end when Spurs take on Wycombe, Sunderland and Middlesbrough in the space of just eight days.
Despite being a versatile player, the centre-back role is an unfamiliar one for Wanyama. But his concentration, strength and tackling ability makes him just as good as any traditional defender.
Pochettino has also built a team capable of playing out from the back, and he is very much capable of that.
Understandably, there will be cause for concern among fans, heading into a period of must-win games for Tottenham potentially without their two first-choice defenders. However, Wanyama can no doubt step up to the plate, and ensure that their impressive defensive record remains intact.