A knee injury sustained by Jan Vertonghen at Crystal Palace last month spelled the end of the centre-half double act he’d maintained with Belgian international team-mate Toby since the beginning of the season.
But any fears that our impressive defensive continuity would suffer as a result have been quashed after Austrian international Kevin seamlessly stepped into the breach alongside Toby at Carrow Road on Tuesday night and duly helped us keep a clean sheet against the Canaries.
It wasn’t the first time Toby and Kevin have teamed up in the heart of our back four – indeed, they played together in home Europa League wins against Qarabag and Monaco earlier in the season, again in the first encounter between us and Leicester City in the FA Cup third round in January and then for the last 15 minutes of our 3-1 domestic victory at Crystal Palace after Jan was forced off.
But after starting their first Premier League match together against the Canaries, both players feel they can work well in tandem as the games continue to come thick and fast.
“Kevin did very well,” 26-year-old Toby, the more experienced of the duo, proudly said after Tuesday’s game.
“I’ve played a couple of Europa League matches with him as well and he’s very comfortable on the ball, he knows how we have to play and there is a good connection between us – that’s important.
“He’s a quiet guy, quite funny as well off the pitch, but he always works hard for the team – even when he wasn’t playing earlier in the season.
“The lads are all helping him and he put in a very good performance against Norwich. This is a good opportunity for him and I’m sure – in fact, I know – he will do well.”
High praise indeed for the 23-year-old former 1. FC Köln defender – although Kevin was keen to return Toby’s compliments: “It’s always good to have a player like Toby next to you,” he said.
“You know that if you maybe lose a header, there’s always someone who covers you – he gives me a lot of security and that’s very important.
“I learn a lot from both Toby and Jan – they are two of the best centre-backs in England and the world and for me it’s a pleasure to work every day with them. I’m a bit younger than them so I can still learn a lot in training and in matches. I try to see what they’re doing and give my best to try to improve myself.”
Understandably, both players were in talkative mood after our fine win over Alex Neil’s men…
Kevin on Dele Alli’s early goal at Norwich City…
It was a very good start to the game. We scored very quickly and it was very important to score so early. We wanted to put pressure on them from the beginning and we did that. In the first half we did very well and we had chances to score even more. In the second half Norwich tried everything and played a lot of long balls but I think we defended well and they didn’t really have any big chances. It was a very important three points for us and, of course, I’m very happy that we kept a clean sheet as part of the victory.
Toby on the team’s performance at Carrow Road…
We started very well – the way you have to start a game. The second half was different but we showed a lot of character, put a lot of effort in and, in the end, it was a deserved win. If we have to say something about the first half, perhaps we should have scored a third goal because then the game would have been over.
Kevin on the outcome of his first Premier League start…
If you have a wish before your first Premier League start and someone tells you that you’re going to win 3-0, keep a clean sheet and get the three points I don’t think it could be better and that’s the case for me today. We did very well – Norwich were never really in the game and it was clear that there was only going to be one winner.
Toby on our resilience after half-time…
In the second half we worked hard for it, kept a clean sheet and achieved three very good away points. It was difficult to play in the second half but it doesn’t always have to be pretty, sometimes you have to fight and do your best to keep a clean sheet. They had a lot of possession but that’s it and of course it’s difficult when there are crosses and second balls coming in, but we did well.
Kevin on what he’s learned since his summer move to the club…
To always be aggressive, always try to push the striker, never give him space to turn and always be right with him. This is what I’ve tried to improve on a lot and I feel I’ve already become much better than when I first arrived at the club. I’ve also learned to keep calm when I have the ball and the opponents are pressing us – I always try to play and not only play long balls.
Kevin on the atmosphere created by our supporters…
In Germany we had quite good supporters but the Tottenham fans are always the loudest. When we played Crystal Palace recently they were brilliant, as they were tonight. They are always singing for the 90 minutes – you can hear them and that’s very important for a player because you always know that they are behind you and trying to push you on. Of course it’s nice when you score and can celebrate with them. For sure, Spurs fans are among the best in the league but when it comes to a song for me I think the fans know better than me so I’ll leave it to them!