Toby Alderweireld (vs Manchester City 14/02/16)
A fair amount of Alderweireld’s first half was spent in positions ready to receive the ball, as opposed to having to do much defending. During this time he executed several decent passes – through the opposition midfield or cross-field to Danny Rose, one of which forced Sergio Aguero back to head it away – though he wasn’t particularly under much pressure when on the ball.
Throughout the match he was generally comfortable when on the ball. Perhaps his touch and pass weight would prevent him from becoming a key fixture in build-up play from the back, but he certainly seemed better than most.
Spurs’ defensive system, with the midfield as a generally solid primary means of containing the opponents with the centre-backs dropping deeper, makes life easier. What also makes life easier is a lack of central striker or attacking movement around the centre-backs, as happened quite a lot in this match, so although there were long spells in the second half when City were on top Alderweireld actually had quite little to do.
Nonetheless, his positioning was generally good. I’m aware that I’m more prone to like centre-backs who drop off a yard rather than step up and try and play an (often risky) offside, but Aldi’s positional instincts meant that there were several times where he moved into position ready to mop up an attempted ball into Aguero before the pass was even made (if, indeed, it ever was).
He also, in rare occasions when he was tested, proved his strength, here continually monitoring his position so as to prevent a more dangerous pass into Aguero.
The below example is more about his body shape than position on the pitch, continuing to show Aguero onto his weaker left foot until further reinforcements arrive (he doesn’t intentionally allow the City striker back onto his right, but by the time he does it doesn’t matter).
With not that much movement in behind him or over his shoulder, there wasn’t much opportunity for Alderweireld to exhibit much awareness (or lack of it).
There was one moment where he stepped up as the ball was cleared and looked possibly, though this may be being a little harsh, to lose where Aguero was a bit.
In the last minute of the match, he also shares partial responsibility for Otamendi being unmarked at the back post, leading to Lloris’ heroics. Although it’s Kyle Walker’s position and presumably a midfielder’s job to have been marking the City centre-back, as the most senior member of the back-line it’s also up to Alderweireld to take a look over his shoulder and make Walker more aware of the danger.
Decision-making (/big errors)
There’s basically nothing to mention here. There weren’t really any big decisions he had to make that can’t be covered elsewhere or big errors that he made in this match.
Speed and strength (/how to overcome them)
Alderweireld wasn’t particularly up against much speed or strength in this match, so it’s kind of difficult to judge. He was quick a few times, including one moment getting into position to cut out a potential cross to Aguero that also showed a good positional awareness, urgency, and sense of potential danger.
I had a vaguely formed idea of Alderweireld before watching him in this match which was not a wholly positive one (relative to the quality that a team of Tottenham’s level would require). After watching him in this match I’m warming to him – I think his positioning is decent if not quite great and he can be useful in possession. I’m still slightly concerned about his awareness, about how he’d fare against top teams which actually used attacking movement around the defenders. It’s also worth bearing in mind that this wasn’t a hugely difficult match for him to play in, I think, despite it being against Man City. But yeah, it seems like Aldi isn’t a budget version after all.