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Darren Lewis: Kane is shining again, but two of Spurs’ most crucial gems are behind him

01 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Darren Lewis: Kane is shining again, but two of Spurs’ most crucial gems are behind him

The likes of Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier are providing the platform for Mauricio Pochettino's team to excel, says the Mirror sports writer

They appear to have got there in the end.

Since Mauricio Pochettino arrived at Tottenham last summer, the Argentine and his staff have been focused on shoring up the north Londoners’ defence.

An ambitious plan to sign talented Villarreal defender Mateo Musacchio failed because of a combination of the money being demanded for the 25-year-old (understood to be around £17m) and third-party issues that appeared to be more trouble than they were worth.

So Pochettino turned to Federico Fazio (£8m) from Sevilla and handed the captain’s armband to Younes Kaboul.

(Eric Dier came in from Sporting Lisbon but was seen initially as a squad player given the challenge of forcing his way into the senior team. More about him shortly.)

Kaboul lasted just 15 games and was so bad that he was not seen again in a Tottenham shirt after January. Sunderland are now suffering with his art.

Fazio at least made it into the current campaign but proved way before his shambolic performance against Arsenal last week that he has no long-term future at White Hart Lane.

So when it became clear last season that there was a chance of landing Toby Alderweireld in the summer, Spurs made the Belgian a top priority.

At the time the 26-year-old – on loan from Atletico Madrid – was helping Southampton to maintain one of the tightest defences in the Premier League.

That the Saints failed to tie him to a permanent deal long before Spurs pinched him from under their noses must surely remain one of the biggest frustrations in some time at St Mary’s.

Because at £11.25m Alderweireld has been a bargain. The centre-back has brought stability and steel to the Tottenham defence.

He has struck up an understanding with countryman Jan Vertonghen that has finally enabled the former Ajax defender to look the player that Spurs had hoped they were getting when they signed him three years ago.

Kevin De Bruyne’s (offside) goal for Manchester City last Saturday was only the second that Spurs have conceded in the last five games in which Alderweireld in particular has played.

And the North Londoners currently jointly hold the best defensive record in the Premier League with Manchester United, both teams having conceded just five goals.

It is obviously early days for Pochettino’s restructured side.

As Gary Neville pointed out earlier this week, the Argentine has already changed a culture at White Hart Lane.

To do that, however, he has needed good players and in Alderweireld he has a gem.

Harry Kane’s goal finally sparked a return to form for the England striker that saved Tottenham’s season last term.

Others such as Hugo Lloris, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min are the poster boys for the club on a week-to-week basis.

The likes of Alderweireld, however, are providing the platform for them to excel.

In front of him Dier has received an avalanche of praise – and a new contract – for his performances since his arrival. That too has all been well deserved.

Last year the England Under-21 star was left out of Gareth Southgate’s squad after revealing that he preferred playing at centre-back rather than right-back for his country.

Yet it is Dier’s versatility that has made him so important to his club.

The Cheltenham-born 21-year-old impressed in that position in pre-season and, when Spurs failed to prise away Victor Wanyama from Southampton, it was a no-brainer to keep Dier in defensive midfield.

Spurs will obviously try again for Wanyama – who would bring an obvious class to the slot – in January, despite the Saints’ determination to tie their player to a new contract.

But in the meantime Dier has done, and is doing, very nicely thank you. Operating in an unfamiliar role he has been disciplined, industrious and key to Tottenham’s improved defensive displays.

That rearguard will be strongly tested on Sunday at Swansea with the likes of Bafetimbi Gomis, Andre Ayew and Jefferson Montero set to try and pull it apart.

The stats show, however, that Pochettino’s men are now working for each other and will be hard to break down.

Despite the underachievement at rivals Arsenal, Tottenham still have some way to go to bridge the gap between the two North London clubs.

Alderweireld and Dier, however, are two key components of the foundations they are building on.

And with inconsistency and underachievement making this year’s scramble for the top four the most open there has ever been, that pair most definitely gives Spurs a chance.

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