Micky van de Ven has signed a six-year contract at Spurs (PA)
Tottenham’s recent track record for signing centre-backs… doesn’t make for great reading. Since the summer of 2017, Davinson Sanchez, Juan Foyth, Joe Rodon and Cristian Romero have all made the move to north London. One of those has already departed, another is expected to leave this summer, while who knows what the future holds for Rodon. They’ve taken a risk, then, in spending big on Micky Van de Ven.
The Dutchman joins from Wolfsburg after an impressive Bundesliga campaign. Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba was another on the radar at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but the powers that be were convinced by Van de Ven as they sought to bring in a left sided centre-back to partner Romero in Ange Postecoglou’s favoured 4-3-3 system.
What has proven crucial is Van de Ven’s leadership qualities. Tottenham were so often all over the place in defence last season. Hugo Lloris committed more errors leading to an opposition goal (4) than any other player in the Premier League last season, while Spurs conceded the sixth most goals (63) in the division. Postecoglou spoke on a number of occasions about the need to bring in a centre-back, up to Tuesday’s confirmation of Van de Ven’s signing, and it’s easy to see why.
Even in what promises to be a youthful backline, Van de Ven’s control at the back will be key. He did, after all, captain the Netherlands at the U21 Euros, and this facet to his game helped Spurs make their decision on the centre-back. Romero, for example, needs a leader alongside him to ensure he doesn’t over commit and leave gaps in the defence that can be exploited. While three years his junior, Van de Ven will help keep Romero in check and marshal a defence that needs organising.
There’s also the recovery speed that will ensure Postecoglou can implement a high defensive line. Van de Ven was the quickest central defender in Germany’s top tier last term, clocking in at 22.3mph as per the offical Bundesliga website. Van de Ven has been described as “a Cruyffian defender” by Ruben Jongkind, a director Dutch side Volendam where he spent eight years before his move to Wolfsburg in 2021, with Jongkind waxing lyrical about the centre-back.
“A lot of risk taking, incredible speed, I have never seen something like that. His special weapon was already there. I worked at Ajax with fast players, but this was incredible.” Jongkind went on to admit that Van de Ven ran a 60m pace dash in seven seconds flat. “After a training session, with a standing start!” This weapon in his arsenal means Spurs can afford to play with a high defensive line, safe in the knowledge that Van de Ven can cover the ground at lightning speed should needs must.
On the ball, he’s one that is happy to set his side on the frontfoot, and this will help establish Van de Ven as a fan favourite at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Indeed, he ranked top for passes per game (50.5) and pass success rate (88.3%) of all Wolfsburg players, while 518 forward passes ranked 33rd of all outfielders in the Bundesliga last season, a metric topped by Tapsoba (879).
Van de Ven, right, brings exceptional pace to Tottenham’s back line (Getty Images)
This willingness to get the ball on deck and play out from the back is a key attribute for any modern-day centre-back, and we’ve seen other Premier League sides follow the same tact in the quest for dominance. No longer are defenders needed solely to deny opponents from scoring, but they are tasked with instigating attacks from defence. The upcoming generation of centre-backs all seek to play their part in dominating opponents, and they have become precious commodities in the game today.
Chelsea and Arsenal tied Levi Colwill and William Saliba down to respective long-term deals given their ability to pick out a teammate with ease. Manchester City have made Josko Gvardiol the most expensive defender ever for that same reason, and Van de Ven is now the sixth most expensive signing in Spurs’ history following his arrival from Wolfsburg. While the aforementioned trio put in better passing numbers than the latter, this will be due to Brighton, Arsenal and RB Leipzig, respectively, seeing far more of the ball than the Wolves in their respective leagues last season.
Spurs have had to spend big on the young centre-back, but he’s one who fits Postecoglou’s style of play, and this ultimately is key. It’s no point bringing in a defender who’d struggle with the Australian’s demands, as this would negatively impact what should prove to be a very important season for the club. A leader at the back, pace to burn and versatile, too; Van de Ven should prove a superb addition to this Spurs side.