Barring the most recent hold-up in our transfer endeavours, Tottenham deserves full credit for trying to get their business done nice and early this window, with Micky van de Ven looking all but set to join for a reported £30m.
While the fee is undoubtedly hefty for a rather inexperienced player, the lad is arguably the most talked about centre-back in the entire Bundesliga at the minute, so much so that Leipzig are considering him as an option to replace the Manchester City bound Joško Gvardiol.
In terms of van de Ven’s career trajectory, he was actually playing at an amateur level up until 2020, further following that up with a couple of years in the Dutch second division with Volendam.
There, he caught the eye of scouts all around Europe, but it was Wolfsburg who coerced him with the all but proven allure of first-team football.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go to plan for the Dutchman to begin with, as the gallimaufry that is German football – along with a chronic reoccurring injury meant that Micky was limited to just 5 appearances in his first season at the club.
Nevertheless, his performances over the last 12 months have proven him to be competent at the least, though some would argue that just a solitary season in the top flight isn’t enough to warrant the transfer fee in question.
Regardless, what I find particularly promising about this move is that if you look at players who are similar to him statistically, Tapsoba and Lenglet are ranked at number 1 and 2 respectively, which therefore indicates that Tottenham are targeting very specific players for their system – as opposed to utilising a scattergun approach as they have done so often in the past, a tactic that can only be seen as a step in the right direction.
It’s not like the kid can hide, he’s built like a brick house. He dons a 6’4″ stature at 22 years old, and it comes as no surprise that he operates predominantly as a centre-half.
What is unexpected, however, is that he’s played at left-back a fair few times in his career already, including on 6 occasions during the 2022-23 season. And when you couple that with the fact that he’s equally as adept at operating in a back 4 as he is a back 3, we’ve got ourselves a defender with plenty of versatility to offer.
While most modern day centre-halves are decent on the ball, this guy is well and truly elite in possession.
His ball-carrying and successful take-ons are amongst the best in the business and you often find him evading challenges from opposition strikers before bursting forward into midfield.
His acceleration and top-end speed is remarkable given his size and is the reason he comes out on top during most shoulder-to-shoulder situations as well as outright foot races.
In terms of passing, he’s solid but unspectacular in the sense that he can shift it around without looking particularly cultured while doing so. The reason he’s such a good fit for Tottenham is that he’s proactive rather than reactive in his approach, which should help bring some balance when playing alongside Romero, who gets stuck in at every possible opportunity presented to him.
And as we all know, partnerships are the name of the game at centre-back. If you are to objectively analyse all the past great centre-back partnerships, (John Terry & Ricardo Carvalho, Rio Ferdinand & Nemanja Vidic, Jan Vertonghen & Tony Aldeweireld) you’ll quickly realise they are ultimately the determining factors in a team’s success over the campaign.
That being said, there are surely a couple of areas for concern when it comes to van de Ven. First and foremost, despite his gigantic frame, he’s surprisingly terrible in the air, as evidenced by the fact that he falls under the 4th percentile for winning duels with his head.
Secondly, he struggles big time when made to turn quickly, and that’s something Postacoglu will have to be wary of, as the opposition will undoubtedly try and target these weaknesses moving forward. However, there’s no questioning van de Ven’s character and willingness to grow.
He captained the Netherlands’ under-21s at the recently concluded European Championship, and is known to combine a never-say-die spirit with fierce vocality. And when you consider how young he is, there’s no reason he can’t become twice the player he already is in due course.