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Vertonghen, Not Bale, Shines for Tottenham, but Their Unbeaten Run Ends at Liverpool

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This is not the way Tottenham Hotspur supporters in the US had wanted to spring forward.

It's far too early to say what March 10 will mean to Spurs two months from now, but it's more than reasonable to suggest that the second Sunday of March 2013 will be viewed as having been one of the more frustrating days of the current campaign when all is said and done. Spurs thoroughly dominated Liverpool at Anfield for over an hour, but three collapses in the defensive third (how Michael Dawson missed Luis Suarez of all people darting into the box remains a mystery well after the fact) ultimately ended a Tottenham unbeaten run that began back in mid-December. The 3-2 loss stings, of course, but that doesn't mean Spurs can't take anything positive from the result heading into Thursday night's Europa League showdown at Inter.

Perhaps the most noteworthy Spurs story of the current month has been the death of the so-called "one-man team" identity that has been thrown around in stories and on social media websites since Tottenham won at West Brom back on February 3. POTY candidate Gareth Bale has arguably been the best player in the league over the past six weeks, and he had a role in five of the seven goals Tottenham have thus far netted in March. Bale's contributions to his team's current successes cannot be overlooked, but it would be false to claim that he has carried Spurs this month, or that he's even been the best player in the team over the past three games.

Jan Vertonghen, who has somewhat quietly evolved into one of the top defenders in the Premier League since joining Spurs last summer, has been Tottenham's best overall player during the team's current 2-1-0 run. Vertonghen and Michael Dawson were co-men of the match in the latest north London derby, shutting down attack after attack and also closing things down in the midfield before Arsenal could get anything going in the final third. Vertonghen was responsible for the top defensive moment of that particular game when he ran down Olivier Giroud inside the Spurs penalty area before preventing the Frenchman to test goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Vertonghen was again an impact player four days later when Spurs hosted Inter, and he put that game away for good with a header that he powered home eight minutes after the break. I'll shy away from going too deep into this match, though, as the Italian side truly did resemble a team that was over Europa League and only concentrating on returning to Champions League football. Inter are, as of the posting of this piece, four points behind third place AC Milan with a game in hand.

The former Ajax captain was the lone Tottenham defender who really earned his paycheck at Anfield. He was the only player capable of shutting Suarez down in the box, and he provided cover out on the wings on a day in which Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto both looked like second-tier backs. Vertonghen's brace would have earned him man of the match honors if not for two moments of utter calamity that propelled Liverpool to their one-goal victory.

Critics and/or Internet trolls can continue to insist that Spurs only win through their Welsh wonder. If anything, their past three fixtures have proven that Tottenham are actually a three-man team, one with vital stars at all ends of the pitch. Vertonghen, Bale and Aaron Lennon are players who could feature for any EPL side at the moment given their current form, and Lennon, who was sidelined on Sunday due to a hamstring injury, was sorely missed in the loss to Liverpool. Those three, along with manager Andre Villas-Boas, are why Spurs fans shouldn't be having nightmares of another springtime collapse; at least not yet, anyway.

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