Toby Alderweireld says Tottenham Hotspur “played like adults” in their 3-1 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund, and believes they have learned a new tactical maturity from last season’s lessons in Europe.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side so notably claimed a first win at their temporary home of Wembley this season, but that also marked a break from last year’s continental campaign, given how they so struggled at the stadium to ultimately go out at the group stage. One belief from those close to the squad is that the intense style that serves Spurs so well in the Premier League was undercut by more patient European teams, but that was another reason Wednesday’s win marked such a significant departure.
Tottenham appeared much more calculated and counter-attacking, and Alderweireld feels it is because experience in the competition has made them cannier.
“We didn't play like children,” the Belgian international said. “We played like adults. It wasn't going our way but we fought, we kept compact, we tried to be dangerous when we came out. We did that in the first half and the second half was better. Like I said, we could have been better and scored a lot more. We learned quick. We have to learn quick. It's a good step from last season and a good start, and we're happy with it.”
Asked whether Spurs had become more tactically mature, Alderweireld responded: “That's what I'm trying to say. When it doesn't go our way, because we want to press and sometimes we're a little bit late, we just stay compact to get through it. And when we got the ball, we tried to be dangerous. That's a big plus from last season. Like I said - compact, didn't give a lot of chances away. They had a lot of possession but we defended very well. Second half they got more tired and we should have scored more.
“Everybody knew what we had to do. We have more experienced players, they know what to do now in those kind of situations. They keep their heads calm and bring what they have to bring.
“It’s very important, at Wembley as well. We've played some good games here but didn't get the points. Now, especially with the team effort, the first half wasn't easy. We learnt from last season. We didn't play well but we fought, we were compact, didn't get a lot of chances. Second half was a lot better, we could have score two or three times more. It was a very important first step but it's one win. We're very happy with it.
“Every game is different but with three points in the bag, we can be confident in the next game. We'll see how we play there but this is a good result.”
Alderweireld also praised the impact of fellow centre-half Davinson Sanchez, who was so composed despite this win being just the 21-year-old’s second appearance for Spurs since signing for Ajax.
“He was very good I think. We tried to help him, he's very young but for his age he is a very quality player. He likes to learn a lot. We talk a lot to help each other, so that's a good sign.”
Alderweireld also felt that Jan Vertonghen’s late red card was “unfortunate”. His international teammate was adjudged to have struck substitute Mario Goetze with his elbow in stoppage time, and received a second yellow card.
“I have to see it back but I think Jan was a little bit unfortunate. Things happen in football.
“I don't think it was in danger to use his arm or something. It was a second yellow so maybe one game [out with a ban]. We'll see.”