Wednesday 28 March 2018

Player Profile: Jan Vertonghen

For many, Jan Vertonghen might just be among the very best defensive players in the world. With close to 100 caps for his nation, Belgium, and a very impressive club career, Vertonghen has enjoyed a career already that many would die for. Now in his prime at 30, too, there’s nothing to say that his influence won’t continue to grow as a player. He’s been a key part of very successful Ajax, Tottenham and Belgium teams now. His authority also plays a key role, alongside his consistent threat from the back.

In his career, he’s been a regular threat for the opposition for a defender. Growing up in Saint-Niklaas, he made a move to Ajax as a youngster and became one of the many players to come though their youth academy with great success. Alongside the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelan, the trio came through at Ajax and helped to form the backbone of many successful seasons for the Dutch giants.

His main breakthrough with Ajax came in 2009, when he soon became a regular in the first-team after John Hietinga made his move to Atletico Madrid. While he suffered from injury at first, he soon recovered from his persistent injury issues and developed into the star he is today.

In 2012, he made his move to Tottenham Hotspur, after several seasons as one of the most impressive players in the Dutch Eredivisie. A uniquely talented defender, he rejected moves to the Milan, Newcastle and Arsenal to make the transfer to Tottenham. While his goal scoring prowess may have dried up in recent seasons, he’s retained the defensive prowess and solidity that has ensured he’s one of the most respected defender in the European game.

Without doubt, he’s among the best defenders of his generation.

Monday 5 March 2018

Player Profile: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

As one of the fastest players ever to take to the field, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – or ‘Auba’ – is the definition of the modern striker. While his critics might say he’s nowhere near as involved in team play as he could be, to be one of the highest goal scorers in Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund history in under five years is a hugely impressive feat.

The new Arsenal signing will make his way to the Emirates at the prime of his career. As the 2015 African Player of the Year, and a 2017 DFP Pokal champion with Dortmund, the 56-times Gabon international arrives ready to take on the Premier League at the peak of his powers. However, the path to stardom for Auba is nowhere near as straightforward as some would assume.

Indeed, after many moves around at youth level he soon found his place in Milan, when he signed for the Diavolo in 2007. Howeve, he never broke through into the first team and, after several loan spells at Lille, Monaco and Saint-Etienne, he made his move permanent in 2011. A key player at Saint-Etienne, he quickly became a player of repute within Ligue 1 and, by 2013, he was the second top scorer in the league. With 19 strikes, he finished only behind Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimović. 

At this stage, he made a move to Borussia Dortmund, signing a five-year deal with the club. Scoring a hat-trick on debut, he quickly established himself as among the best players in the clubs’ recent history. While it took him 4 years to eventually lift a trophy, the DFB-Pokal, he leaves as the highest-scoring African player in German football history.

141 goals in 213 games is one of the most impressive hit rates in Europe, and has established his legend at Dortmund, despite a negative end to his time in Germany. Now an Arsenal player, he looks set to continue his hot streak for the Gunners.