Moussa Sissoko might well be the most frustrating player in the Premier League. With infrequent 90 minute periods of brilliance for Newcastle United separated by months of poor performances, the Frenchman was a regular starter and dominant member of the France squad that made it to the European Championship final last summer.
What followed was a summer of whispers about his future, with Newcastle fans sick of him and other clubs tiptoeing around with the hope of picking up a bargain. Everton were linked, but it was eventually Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham who thought they could take those moments of brilliance and convert him into a regular achiever at the top of the Premier League. The fee was around £30 million, which will have had Mike Ashley and Rafael Benitez chuckling and Spurs fans cringing.
Sissoko has quickly become a similar figure of mockery at White Hart Lane. Joining a worryingly long line of underwhelming additions in recent years, he was meant to add pace, width and power to Spurs’ often narrow attack. His performances, however, have been indifferent this season (yes, that’s putting it a bit kindly) though it has not halted Spurs’ season.
Their biggest addition of the window has been a disappointment, but Spurs have still managed to make an FA Cup semi-final and will be competing for the league title well into May. Champions League and Europa League shortfalls could have been assisted by their ‘depth’ players being of more use, but really they have done rather well this season considering their poor summer of 2016.
The main reason for Sissoko being nothing more than an inconvenience has been a summer signing from 2015: Heung-Min Son. The former Bayer Leverkusen man has enjoyed a wonderful campaign, filling in for Harry Kane at times and enabling Pochettino to play a 4-2-3-1 even with Erik Lamela injured for the majority of the season.
Son’s goals are the real key, but his overall performances are what really sticks in the mind. That said, 12 Premier League goals have been welcome in the absence of Kane and a couple of stellar FA Cup displays carried Spurs to Wembley. The South Korean is not only a versatile member of Pochettino’s squad, his smart movement, acceleration and eye for goal have added something to this Spurs team that was at times lacking last season.
Where Sissoko was meant to be an extra string to Spurs’ already dangerous bow, Son has stepped up. Sissoko’s failings have only been a frustration rather than a direct detriment to the Lilywhites’ season, as they would have been if Son had been injured or less effective.
Had this season been less impressive, questions would – yet again – be asked of Spurs’ transfer policy. The Sissoko deal did not make sense at the time, nor does it now, but Son’s performances have – in the short-term – covered up an issue that could have undermined the whole season.
The time for discussion about Sissoko’s future will come, though Spurs should be thankful for Son’s impact to keep it on the back burner for now.