Having started well in the recent European Championships for Belgium, Jan Vertonghen was on the receiving end of an unfortunate injury in training which saw him miss the Red Devils’ shock quarter-final defeat to Wales in Lille .
With a freak injury ruling the former Ajax man out of a number of fixtures towards the beginning of 2016, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino will be contemplating whether he has enough strength in depth to take his side forward in four competitions this season.
Despite his injury, Vertonghen still made 33 appearances for the side from North London last year, and built up a formidable partnership alongside compatriot Toby Alderweireld at the heart of Tottenham’s defence.
Perhaps more than any physical absence when Tottenham head to Goodison Park on Saturday 13h August, for their opening fixture of the 2016-17 season, the mental significance of one of the youngest sides in the league missing a defensive lynchpin could prove significant.
International cover already at the club
As Pochettino looks set to add Marseille man Georges-Kévin N’Koudou to summer signings Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen, from Southampton and AZ Alkmaar respectively, there is a strong case for the former Espanyol boss to stick with what he has whilst continue to build from within.
When Vertonghen went down against Crystal Palace in late January, former FC Köln man Kevin Wimmer seamlessly stepped in for the upcoming fixtures.
Wimmer, who was a part of Euro 2016 himself with a disappointing Austria side, looked as if he had been playing alongside Alderweireld for years, making very few mistakes as Tottenham built one of the strongest defences in Europe.
A left footed centre-back, like Vertonghen, Pochettino would not have to change any of his tactics as Wimmer and left-back Danny Rose simply picked up where they left off last season.
However, if Wimmer isn't yet deemed ready for a more consistent starting spot from the very start of the season, Tottenham could have a ready made alternative right in front of the Austrian.
One of very few bright sparks for England in France, including an unstoppable free-kick against Russia in England’s opener, Eric Dier could simply slot back into the back four of Tottenham once again.
Having spent most of his debut season in 2014-15 switching between central defence and right-back, the former Sporting Clube de Portugal man is more than capable of providing defensive security.
Spending the whole of last season in a more advanced defensive midfield role, Pochettino may feel the addition of Wanyama will free up Dier to continue to offer his vital versatility away to former club Everton.
However, with Mousa Dembélé still serving his suspension for violent conduct away at Chelsea towards the end of last season, Dier is likely to be required to maintain his position in the middle of the park alongside Wanyama for the season opener.
Less obvious options
Having rapidly progressed through the Tottenham youth teams, 18 year old central defender Cameron Carter-Vickers looks like having a long and successful career at the very highest level.
Already an under-23 international for the United States, making nine appearances with the solitary goal, Carter-Vickers is yet to make his first team debut for Tottenham.
The young American looks to have already caught the eye of Pochettino, however, with the Argentine boss involving Cameron-Vickers in many first team drills both in training and on match days.
Considered by many to be the fourth choice central defender at the club before the injury to Vertonghen, Cameron-Vickers may find involvement increased in pre-season as he looks set to provide vital cover to the likely first choice centre back partnership of Wimmer and Alderweireld.
One final option, which may have been overlooked before his country’s outstanding European Championships, would be to move left-back Ben Davies into the heart of the defence when needed throughout the season.
With Wales playing a back five, including two attacking full-backs, Davies played a key role on the left side of the Welsh defence, particularly in their opener against Slovakia in which the former Swansea man cleared a Marek Hamšík effort off his goal line.
Danny Rose has continued to go from strength to strength under the guidance of Pochettino and has seemingly nailed down the left-back spot for the considerable future.
In order to rotate his squad in cup competitions, Pochettino may choose to utilise Davies’ versatility by deploying the former Swan further infield. In order to ensure he doesn't neglect the cover on the flanks, the former Southampton boss may opt to promote Kyle Walker-Peters into his first team plans.
The full-back, currently away with the England under-19 side in Germany, has yet to make his senior debut for any side but has continued to earn rave reviews for his performances at under-21 level for Tottenham.
Money arguably spent better elsewhere
The prospect of utilising Dier, Carter-Vickers and Davies at the heart of an already secure looking back four, with Alderweireld, Wimmer and Vertonghen (on his return from injury) already providing international experience in that position, means Pochettino has a number of options to choose from throughout the season.
Instead of investing further in the central defence positions, perhaps stifling the development of some highly encouraging youngsters, Tottenham may be better off looking to further strengthen their midfield to alleviate the loss of Dembélé for the opening few fixtures.