Eight years after turning down Arsenal to join Spurs because he didn’t want to fight to get in the Arsenal side, Jan Vertonghen has left Spurs with no trophies.
Although in his most recent interview in 2018 about nearly joining Arsenal, Jan Vertonghen says he has no regrets about opting to move to Spurs instead of the Gunners in 2012, he might secretly harbour one or two.
“It was as close as it can get,” he said in 2018. “My agent went to Arsenal, I wasn’t there myself but it was very respectful and in the end I had to make a choice and I chose Spurs. I chose Spurs and I think it’s turned out well.”
Arsene Wenger wanted Vertonghen in the side to play in front of the back four as well as playing in central defence. The Belgian gave an interview which admitted that much and basically said he went to Spurs because they could guarantee him a starting spot and he didn’t want to play in a new position.
I remember covering that interview a year or two after he joined Spurs, but we lost about five years of archives during a server move and I cannot find any reference to it anywhere online and I’m not inclined to sit here for five hours looking. When I mentioned it on Twitter, however, people remembered what I was talking about.
Arsenal signed Per Mertesacker the summer before and didn’t buy another central defender until purchasing Gabriel in 2014, two years later. They already had Thomas Vermaelen, purchased in 2009, and Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci, who both arrived the summer before the big German turned up.
Now you can see why I mocked Vertonghen’s decision not to fight for a place at Arsenal, or to test himself in a new position, given who was already at the club, can’t you? Apart from the obvious reasons, of course.
If you remember the 2012 summer transfer window, that was the year Santi Cazorla arrived along with Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, and Nacho Monreal while Robin van Persie headed off, believing Sir Alex Ferguson’s lies that he wouldn’t be retiring any time soon.
Arsenal made it to the FA Cup final in 2014, despite their defence, with Mertesacker and Koscielny starting the showpiece. Vertonghen’s national teammate, Vermaelen, was on the bench.
In the 2015 Cup final, the same pair started, however Gabriel was on the bench this time as the Belgian was, you’ll be surprised to learn, injured. Still didn’t stop Barcelona buying him that summer.
The final in 2017 saw the BFG start in the centre of a back three, flanked by Nacho Monreal to his left and Rob Holding to his right.
But, alas, Jan Vertonghen opted for Tottenham, who continued to finish beneath a declining Arsenal side for four years after he arrived.
They finally managed to clamber over our dying body, just about, by playing the best football in the memory of any Spurs fan or pundit.
Still haven’t won anything, though…
Vertonghen leaves Spurs on free, aged 33, after limited playing time under Jose Mourinho. He made 315 appearances in total for Tottenham.
Per Mertesacker made 221 for Arsenal, winning three trophies.