After a summer of upheaval and change in North London, Tottenham find themselves sitting pretty in the upper reaches of the Premier League table. Far from playing the swashbuckling football of previous tenures, the ‘Lilywhites’ are now finding a way of getting it done by whatever means.
The acquisitions of Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela amongst others have cushioned the blow of losing Welsh wizard Gareth Bale somewhat, but are these the players to fire Spurs to the Promised Land once more?
For me the key to Spurs’ ambitions lies within the hands of a much more familiar star.
Moussa Dembele has frustrated and excited fans in equal measure this season. On his day he is the focal point of everything good that happens for Spurs, bossing the midfield and terrorising the opposition’s defence.
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Too often though the Belgian has gone missing, looking both sluggish and unfit. Unsurprising considering the fact he has been dogged by an on-going hip problem throughout his time at Spurs, something that nearly forced him under the knife midway through last season.
Some may be surprised at my choice of Dembele in respect of these issues. Further to that the Belgian hardly sets the world on fire statistically, with 1 goal and 3 assists in the Premier League for Spurs last term hardly that impressive. So where does my hype stem from?
Under AVB the best midfield partnership throughout his tenure has been that of Dembele and Sandro. The latter the destructive force to break up play and feed others, something that has in no small part added to his cult ‘beast’ status. Dembele on the other hand is the box-to-box creative force, who is able to squeeze past midfielders with consummate ease.
For someone so tall and seemingly ungainly, Dembele’s ability to just stride past opposition is a real thing of beauty. Rarely guilty of gifting cheap possession his pass completion is often pushing the 90% mark without suffering the criticism of overusing negative sideways or backwards passing.
Sandro’s injury last season wasn’t just a loss because it meant he himself was out for such a long time, it was because it necessitated the end of his partnership with Dembele in midfield. Scott Parker is an excellent holding midfielder but his inability to get forward into the final third like Sandro does left Spurs with a predictable and monotonous centre.
Now statistics often don’t lie, but in the case of a player like Dembele they often sell a player short. Take Luka Modric who I consider one of the best Spurs players of the last decade or so. He never topped scoring or assists charts but was still undoubtedly Spurs’ most influential player. Accredited often with the assist for the assist, both deep lying players are continually underrated by those that take statistics as read.
I can accept for one reason or another that Dembele has been below par this season, injury or the addition of new personnel can often result in these things. However his performance against Chelsea last time out capped off a mini resurgence that has seen him continue to assert his dominance in the past few weeks.
The best first half performance from Spurs all season was in no small part down to the assured midfield play of Moussa Dembele. Capitalising on sloppy work from Mikel and Lampard, the Belgian was the main source for the likes of Townsend and Eriksen throughout much of the game.
Spurs may well have a range of attacking talents, but in my opinion they are bereft of deep-lying creativity aside from Dembele. This is a fact typical of a number of teams at the moment and is why both his fitness and form are so crucial to Spurs going forward. An injury to say Eriksen or Townsend would allow either Lamela or Holtby to step into the breach; if Dembele was forced out it would mean a total tactical rethink on the part of Tottenham.
Naturally Spurs’ push for the Champions League will be a team effort, AVB is quick to move away from the criticisms of his ‘one man team’ last season, but surely this Belgian maestro is crucial to any challenge?
For all Spurs’ summer acquisitions I cannot help but think come May we will still be discussing how the likes of Sandro and for me more importantly Dembele were able to stay fit and establish the midfield dominance crucial for Spurs’ success.
Is Dembele key for Spurs this season?
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