The Big Interview - Jan Vertonghen
23 December 2015|Tottenham Hotspur
Even if he's not keen on the phrase, Jan Vertonghen was delighted to see us 'bounce back' to winning ways at Southampton but, as we moved into the Premier League's top four, he's not looking beyond Boxing Day...
Jan is one of three members of a defensive unit that remain ever-present in the Premier League with Hugo Lloris missing just one of 17 matches so far. Hugo, Kyle Walker, Jan and Toby Alderweireld have played our last 16 matches together - and lost just once.
In that time, the team has conceded just 14 goals - joint-best in the Premier League with Arsenal and United - with a sixth clean sheet in the bag at St Mary's.
Jan took time out from delivering food to the North Enfield Food Bank on Tuesday to talk Saints, Canaries and Boxing Day...
How important was the win against Southampton?
Jan: "We lost against Newcastle the week before and I don’t want to use the phrase ‘bounce back’ every time, but we had to win after that unexpected loss, and we did. It wasn’t our best game but it’s a good sign that we can win games like that. The mentality was good in the second half and now it’s a big period coming up over Christmas and New Year."
The big question was always going to be how the team would respond to a defeat like Newcastle...
Jan: "It’s easy to keep playing when you are on a good run. You feel so confident, you feel ‘nothing can happen to us’ and that’s how we played in the Newcastle game. We played very well in the first half and felt we’d kill the game in the second half and perhaps lost focus. We got that focus back at Southampton. In the Premier League, you never win games easily, you never get a present. If you win it’s because you fight for it and that’s what we did at Southampton."
That win moved us into the top four and with how the Premier League is progressing this season, every game and every point is important...
Jan: "Leicester, Arsenal and City are up there and then there are teams right behind us doing superbly like Palace and Watford. They keep the pressure on. If you win your game you will always make a gap somewhere because the way it’s going, teams will always drop points. At the same time, if you can put together a run of wins on the bounce, you can suddenly climb. That’s want you need, a good run."
Having said that, presumably the view from the dressing room is to take one game at a time?
Jan: "That’s the mentality. We can say we want to get nine points from the next three games but it’s difficult to do that, so we think ‘okay, next it’s Norwich on Saturday, let’s try to win that game first’ and then you think about the one after. Norwich beat United away, and that’s the Premier League at the moment, so it's difficult to look further than that."
You mentioned Norwich and they will now come to White Hart Lane on a high. What can we do to combat that and make sure this is a place no teams want to come and play?
Jan: "I'm sure teams don’t look forward to playing at White Hart Lane anyway, but we gave it away too easily against Newcastle. In the dressing room afterwards, we knew it was a one-off and that’s what we wanted to show to everyone on the outside as well, it was a one-off. We were surprised we lost. It happened but the focus is back and we showed that at Southampton. Now we look to the next game."
Have you seen much of Norwich's win at Old Trafford?
Jan: "I’ve seen highlights and they defended well and created chances. They have threats up front and I’m sure they will try to do the same as they did at Old Trafford."
Do you know any of the players at Norwich?
Jan: "Yes, I played a couple of matches in pre-season with Seb Bassong when I first joined Spurs (July, 2012) and before he left for Norwich. He's a very good guy and it will be good to see him again. I got on well with Seb. I also know Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, he's come on a couple of times and I've played with him for Belgium's national team. He's a young midfielder."
The festive fixtures and particularly Boxing Day are part of English football tradition. What's it like to play on Boxing Day?
Jan: "Boxing Day is something special and it’s difficult to explain why you play in England. People in Belgium or Holland ask me ‘are there people in the stadium?’ or ‘why are there games?’ and I just say it’s probably the most exciting day in England, Boxing Day. The families are all in the stadium, very friendly and supportive. It’s a game you want to win. You don’t want to think about being at home after a defeat at Christmas. We all want to win this game and we are ready."