Spurs’ Signing Vincent Janssen Highlights Strength and Work-Rate in Pre-Season


When Vincent Janssen first signed for Tottenham Hotspur, most people referred immediately to his prolific goalscoring record in Holland. Last season, he netted an impressive 27 league goals for AZ Alkmaar, a figure that was superior to any other player in the Dutch Eredivisie. So when Tottenham lined up against Atletico Madrid in a recent pre-season friendly, the club’s fans were probably hoping to see some evidence of those goalscoring exploits.

Unfortunately for the 42,000+ fans in attendance, however, Janssen failed to produce much in the way of shots on target. The 22-year-old hit one hard, low drive to force a diving save from Atletico shot-stopper Jan Oblak, but aside from that well-hit freekick, Janssen never appeared likely to trouble the scorers.

That’s not to say he played badly, though, and in the manner of a modern forward – one who contributes more to the team than goals alone – he actually facilitated much of Tottenham’s strongest attacking play. Janssen didn’t always look polished as he did so, and there were a few moments when his first touch was lacking, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was vital to Spurs’ creative endeavours against a typically well-drilled Atletico Madrid.

Janssen’s first significant involvement was a decent piece of hold-up play, where he shrugged off an opposition defender before teeing up a long shot for Christian Eriksen. Next up, in an even better piece of play, Janssen received a pass from Erik Lamela and clipped it over the top of the Atletico back four. Its accuracy was such that Lamela could then sprint in behind and shoot at goal, and while the Argentine’s effort wasn’t bad, he saw his shot ricochet off the post and back into the field of play.

Janssen continued the theme in the second half, as in the lead-up to a volleyed shot from Ryan Mason, he calmly controlled a long ball before shrugging off the attentions of his marker to find a teammate. This was the way he went about it against Atletico. There was a real presence attached to his hold-up work, and based on the fact that he averaged 1.7 key passes per match in last season’s Eredivisie, it’s clear that his ability to bring others into the game is one of his strengths.

In more specific terms, he enjoys a first-time layoff and his strength over the ball allows him to keep defenders at bay. This is something Kevin Wimmer, Janssen’s new teammate at Tottenham, has already found out the hard way. The pair came together recently in training, the result of which was a black eye for the Austrian centre-back. “Vincent Janssen got his elbow in,” Wimmer joked. “A little accident in training.”

Despite this minor mishap, Wimmer was nonetheless happy to praise Janssen’s early exertions with Spurs. “He’s very physical. He always moves his body very well and he’s a strong player and I think he’ll be a very good player for us,” he asserted. “I first saw him before the Euros when Austria played Holland. In that game, I thought he’s a very good player — he convinced me he was very strong. He also shoots very well. I think he’ll be a very good man for us and he’ll help us a lot for sure.”

Janssen attributes his strength, at least in part, to additional time in the weights room. “I sometimes train extra till four or five o’clock at the gym if I feel that I have to do something extra. You have players who will only do what the coaches ask from them and then go home,” he said. “Football has become more physical, which the Dutch teams noticed in recent years in Europe. You have to be strong if you want to have a chance against defenders of international clubs.”

This speaks not only to his physical power, but also to the other standout feature of Janssen’s display against Atletico: work-rate. By way of example, the Dutch international charged towards Oblak in the second half, something which forced the Slovenian goalkeeper to slip as he attempted to clear the danger. This produced a chance for Nacer Chadli to find a teammate in the final third, and though he missed Janssen with the subsequent pass, Pochettino would still have enjoyed this moment. After all, the kind of high-intensity pressing that has become a hallmark of Pochettino’s teams revealed itself, and Janssen is an ideal fit for Tottenham in that regard. “He has quality in the box and he’s a striker that likes to fight and work for the team,” the Argentine tactician stated. “That is perfect for us.”

Like his new boss, Janssen has always viewed hard work as the way forward as well. After being released by Feyenoord, he spent a couple of years in the Dutch second division, with Almere City, and he took the opportunity to sharpen his game through relentless improvement. He spent time watching film, focusing on forwards such as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Luuk de Jong in order to refine various aspects of his game. He also continued on the training ground when others had already filtered back into the dressing room. “I was always the last one in the dressing room after training and on my day off I asked if there was a goalkeeper who wanted to train with me,” he said.

Janssen reignited his career during that period, and after signing for top-flight side AZ and going on to become one of Holland’s most prolific marksmen in the process, he now has the chance to build upon that momentum in England. It won’t be easy to make the leap to top performer in the Premier League, but as a hard-worker playing under a coach who adores hard-workers, he’ll certainly be afforded the opportunity to take his game to another level.

It’s something that many Eredivisie strikers have tried to do in the past, and while players like Luis Suarez have achieved it, others such as Ricky van Wolfswinkel have failed to make the grade. At this point, it remains unclear how Janssen’s stay in England will end up being categorised, but based on his display against Atletico, it seems likely that his baseline will be hard work and a keen desire to use his strength to propel Tottenham forward.

Now he just needs to add goals into the equation, and he’ll be well on the way.