Alderweireld, Vertonghen key to Tottenham’s success

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LONDON — Toby Alderweireld has settled in seamlessly to Tottenham Hotspur’s defense this season.

That’s probably because he has more than a few familiar faces around him.

On a trip to hang out with Tottenham and Buffalo Bills players last week, ProSoccerTalk caught up with Alderweireld, 26, at Spurs training ground for an exclusive chat as the stylish defender has started every single Premier League game at the heart of Spurs’ defense alongside fellow Belgian Jan Vertonghen. The duo are forming a formidable partnership as they have conceded just eight times in the opening 10 games of the campaign, the joint-best defensive record in the PL, and they go back quite a way.

[ MORE: JPW catches up with Kompany ]

Also around to help Alderweireld settle in at White Hart Lane are other Belgian internationals Mousa Dembele and Nacer Chadli, as Spurs’ lineup has a settled look about it with Mauricio Pochettino‘s men in sixth spot on 17 points from their opening 10 games.

What does Alderweireld make of the season so far as Tottenham prepare for their game against Aston Villa on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)?

“We had only one defeat and that was the first game. We have a good organization and everybody works very hard for the team,” the former Atletico Madrid defender said. “I think up front we can make more of a difference but we are in a good way and we’ve had a lot of difficult games where we have stood our ground and I think we are a team who are difficult to beat.”

In his second season in charge, Pochettino has Spurs moving in the right direction and almost almost a third of the way into this campaign, how is the Belgian international finding life under the regimented Argentine coach?

“You can see that we want to play pressure on run a lot and have the ball as much as possible, so that is always natural that the team has the ball and wants to attack. It is nice to play for him,” Alderweireld said.

[ MORE: Tottenham smash five past Bournemouth ]

Last season Alderweireld was on loan at Southampton from Atletico Madrid and he enjoyed a magnificent season under Ronald Koeman at St Mary’s but returned to Spain and Saints couldn’t come to an permanent agreement with Atletico after the La Liga side exercised their option to cancel Saints’ previous option-to-buy clause. That led to plenty of suitors wanting to buy him permanently from Atletico and Tottenham won the race as Alderweireld joined for $17.5 million and was reunited with Vertonghen for the third-time in his career.

“I know him, especially from Ajax because I played with him but growing up in Belgium I didn’t play with him because he is two years older than me,” Alderweireld revealed. “It is nice to play with him, we know each other well and I think you can see that on the field.”

Vertonghen and Alderweireld
Vertonghen and Alderweireld playing for Belgium

As Alderweireld alluded to, he and Vertonghen have a strong bond as they both played in the same youth team in Belgium, Germinal Beerschot, and both grew up in and around Antwerp close to the Dutch border. The duo also made the switch to Dutch giants Ajax and played in their esteemed youth academy before making it into the first team alongside one another in the same time as current Spurs playmaker Christian Eriksen and Luis Suarez. Their careers have taken similar routes ever since.

[ WATCH: Stream every PL game via Live Extra

Now, they’re forming a strong partnership at the heart of Spurs’ defense with almost telepathic understanding at times as Vertonghen likes to stride out of the back and play with his left foot, while Alderweireld is deft with his right peg and both players are just as comfortable playing in the full back position.

Plus, they are both extremely comfortable playing alongside one another. Alderweireld explains.

“We know, we know. We talk a lot before the game about how to defend and how we have to do this,” Alderweireld revealed. “‘This kind of striker we have to do this’, so we talk a lot before the game and in the game it is split second. If you have to tell each other every time ‘watch this…’ then the moment it is gone. We know what to do in certain situations we know what to do. It is very important. We know from each other that when he makes a mistake I cover and when I make I mistake he picks it up. That is important not only with me and Jan but the team wants to work very hard and make sure other players’ mistakes don’t hurt us. That is why we have a good solidity.”

That solidity has been key to Spurs’ success this season and although they have drawn five of their opening 10 games, they’ve only lost once and that came on the opening day of the season away at Manchester United courtesy of a bizarre own goal from Kyle Walker. So, what are Vertonghen’s best qualities as Spurs’ vice captain continues to impress in his fourth season at the Lane?

“He is a very good defender and he can play the ball. You can always play him the ball and he knows what to do,” Alderweirled said, appreciatively. “He is quite quick, quite strong and good with the head, so he is an all-around player. That is important in the Premier League that you can defend your strikers, not only the strong ones but the fast ones and the small ones… it doesn’t matter, he can beat them all. So that is very nice to have him there and he is a very good defender.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Toby Alderweireld of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on September 26, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Alderweireld celebrates scoring his Spurs in a win over Manchester City.

Another teammate for club and country who Alderweireld rates highly is Dembele. The midfielder has struggled with injuries and form since arriving at Spurs but has been pivotal in the midfield engine room in recent weeks and Alderweireld is a big fan.

“I think he is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League,” Alderweireld said of Dembele. “He is very strong and it is difficult to be strong and technical. He has both. I think if he is not getting injured again then he will be a massive player for us. He can give even more to the team if he is healthy and I think the game against Liverpool was a massive game from him. I hope he can show it now every week because he deserves it. He works very hard and is a very good guy. I really hope he can show it more because he is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.”

With Dembele and Eric Dier providing a robust shield in front of Spurs’ defense, Alderweireld firmly believes his side are setting the foundations for a successful season which will see them challenge for a top for spot.

“That defensive solidity is the way we will get success,” Alderweireld said. “It is important that the team feels confident in playing and isn’t conceding, not giving away a lot of chances. If you have to score three, four, five goals to win it is not good. I think we can improve up front but we are working very hard in a good way and we are playing very well.”

The same can be said for Alderweireld and his good friend he shares the center back position with at White Hart Lane.

Alderweireld and Vertonghen together at Ajax, back right.
Alderweireld and Vertonghen together at Ajax, back right.

Jurgen Klopp wins FIFA’s The Best men’s manager

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Jurgen Klopp has been named the top manager in the world for the past season at FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony on Monday in Milan, Italy.

The UEFA Champions League-winning manager beat out Premier League winner Pep Guardiola of Manchester City and UCL finalist Mauricio Pochettino of Spurs.

[ WATCH: FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony ]

Klopp, of course, was magnanimous in victory.

 “It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here,” Klopp said. “We know what an incredible job Mauricio Pochettino did and what Pep did.”

He thanked the owners and players of his club.

“To the owners thank you, they gave me an incredible team. I have to thank my team – as a coach you can only be as good as your team is. I’m really proud of being manager of such an incredible bunch of players. This is an individual prize, I don’t 100% understand individual prizes, I’m here for a lot of people.”

Good for Klopp.

Watch Live: FIFA’s The Best awards 2019

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FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony takes place in Milan, Italy on Tuesday as the top players and managers on the planet will be crowned.

The ceremony starts at 2:30 p.m. ET and you can watch it live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes (click on the link below).


Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo are the three nominees to be crowned the best male player on the planet.

USWNT duo Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are up for the top female award, as is England’s Lucy Bronze.

Outgoing USWNT head coach Jill Ellis is the favorite to land the award for the best coach in the women’s game, while Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are all among the candidates to be named the best managers in the men’s game.

Click on the link above to watch the glitzy ceremony from Milan as plenty of other awards, like the Puskas Award for the best goal scored in the world, will be dished out.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Matchweek 6 produced some stunning displays across the Premier League, with big wins, comebacks and late drama across plenty of games.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Players from Liverpool, Man City and Leicester City dominate our rankings, while the likes of West Ham and Bournemouth are also well represented. There are also plenty of new entries among our top 20.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.

1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – New entry
2. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Even
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Up 13
4. James Maddison (Leicester) – Up 16
5. Joel Matip (Liverpool) – New entry
6. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – New entry
7. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
8. Steve Cook (Bournemouth) – New entry
9. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester) – New entry
10. Fernandinho (Man City) – New entry
11. Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea) – New entry
12. Mark Noble (West Ham) – New entry
13. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Even
14. Mason Mount (Chelsea) – Down 10
15. Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) – Even
16. Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth) – Up 3
17. Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham) – New entry
18. Chris Wood (Burnley) – New entry
19. Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – New entry

Holding set to return from injury for Arsenal

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Rob Holding is set to return for Arsenal at Nottingham Forest this week.

The Gunners travel to Forest in the League Cup on Tuesday, with Holding back in the squad after nine months out through injury.

Arsenal simply said Holding is “back in contention” for the third round League Cup tie and alongside the likes of Kieran Tierney,  Dinos Mavropano and Hector Bellerin playing for the U23 side last Friday, all of a sudden there is good news in terms of defensive injuries for Arsenal.

Alexandre Lacazette is still out after injuring his left ankle, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is suspended after his red card against Aston Villa on Sunday. Lacazette is expected to return in October, as Arsenal’s injury woes are clearing up.

Holding, 24, was in sensational form last season before he cruelly suffered a serious knee injury in a Premier League game against Manchester United in December.

This will be a huge boost for Unai Emery, as his defense continues to make basic errors and they’ve now given up 10 goals in their first six games of the new PL season.

Sokratis and David Luiz have looked shaky as a partnership and if Holding can regain his form quickly, he will be a guaranteed starter in this Arsenal side.

Before injury cut short his 2018-19 campaign, Holding was being touted as an England international.

The dominant center back will want to make up for lost time and his presence at the heart of Arsenal’s defense saw them go on a 22-game unbeaten run in the opening months of last season.

Following their battling 3-2 win with 10 men for over half of their clash against Aston Villa on Sunday, Arsenal sit in fourth place on 11 points. Considering all of their issues so far, that’s not a bad start.

They have conceded at least twice in each of their last four PL games, and Holding’s return should help them improve their woeful defensive record.

His injury had a negative impact last season, and his return should have a hugely positive impact this season.