With superlatives running out at this point, there is only one word that precisely encapsulates what Mousa Dembele gives Tottenham Hotspur in the middle of the park – control. Whether it’s in terms of retaining possession by jinking around the opposition before selecting the right pass, or using his immense power to win the ball back, Dembele dominates his pocket of the engine room.
It wasn’t so long ago many questioned why the 70-cap Belgium international wasn’t being utilised further forward by Spurs, like during his Fulham days, and accordingly why he couldn’t provide more goals and assists when playing in deeper capacities. But in truth, that’s a rather simplistic evaluation of what Dembele brings to the team; most games are won and lost somewhere in the midfield battle and the 30-year-old’s authority gives Tottenham an often immovable foothold in that area of the pitch.
That was evident once again yesterday as Spurs produced one of the most valiant performances in their recent history on the European stage in Turin. After a calamitous start that saw Juventus score twice in the opening nine minutes, Mauricio Pochettino’s side truly took charge of the Champions League clash, peppering Gianluigi Buffon’s goal and dominating possession, but their two-goal comeback all stemmed from the platform Dembele gave them.
Even by his usual standards though, last night’s performance was a particularly impressive one from the powerful midfielder. Tellingly of how authoritative Dembele was, and how crucial he was to Tottenham’s comeback, he recorded the most tackles, dribbles, passes and touches of the ball of any Spurs player, while completing 95% of his passes and creating two scoring chances.
Especially in such a high-quality match, that’s an impeccable return for a central midfielder, one that reminds us of how important he is Tottenham’s successes. And yet, there remains an underlying lack of appreciation for Dembele – perhaps because he doesn’t grab goals and assists – considering how few players in any position across world football can offer that kind of dominance over their department.
So, Spurs fans, do you think Dembele moved into the bracket of world-class after last night’s performance? Let us know by voting below…