Tottenham Hotspur are set to travel to Anfield this weekend with the race for the top four hanging in the balance.
The same fixture last season was one of the blockbuster encounters of the season. A captivating clash eventually finished 2-2 after Harry Kane scored a last gasp equaliser from the penalty spot.
It was a game which further underlined Mousa Dembele’s credentials as one of the Premier League’s most domineering and untouchable central midfielders at the time, and his performance generated plenty of hype on social media.
Here’s what some Spurs fans had to say about Dembele’s exceptional performance away at Liverpool last season:
Once again, How good was Mousa Dembélé today? Immense. Does his job so well.
— Max (@xDuoMax) February 4, 2018
Dembele is one of the best centre mids in the prem, he's got everything.
— Chris Churchman (@ChrisSChurchman) February 4, 2018
— robert branson (@robert_branson) February 4, 2018
Dembele has been class for Spurs.
— Leigh Curtis (@LeighCurtis_NP) February 4, 2018
Tonight Trippier played well today! Vertonghen superb as always, dembele man of the match! Ben Davies, simply brilliant and so underrated! First choice left back for me now!
— Gards (@Gards44) February 4, 2018
Dembele has been our best player though. By a mile!
— Steve Hotspur Pod (@hotspurspodcast) February 4, 2018
The reaction detailed above was merely the tip of the iceberg. But more than twelve months on Spurs will travel to Merseyside without the twinkle-toed powerhouse, leaving Mauricio Pochettino with no choice other than to rely on the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Eric Dier and Harry Winks in midfield.
Dembele was immense at Anfield in February 2018, dictating play with exemplary composure and an immaculate first-touch to provide Tottenham with the cog they needed to control possession inside Liverpool’s half.
The Belgium international, however, has since departed for Guangzhou R&F. His absence has already been felt despite the best efforts of Sissoko and Winks to establish a formidable midfield partnership, and both players will need to be in excellent form to ensure Spurs return to winning ways in stunning circumstances this weekend.
Winks, in particular, is facing a gargantuan challenge at Anfield. Liverpool’s midfield unit is stacked with dynamic, well-rounded and experienced players, and the outcome of the result will rest on who wins the midfield battle.
For however much Sissoko has improved this season there is no question that his dynamism in possession and ball-winning expertise have formed the backbone of his success; meanwhile, Tottenham’s ability to dictate the tempo rests upon Winks’ young shoulders.
This is by no means exclusively a short-term challenge for the 23-year-old England international. It is fixtures of this nature which will determine Tottenham’s progression and, with Winks now representing the most senior ball-playing central midfielder, the weekend clash offers an opportunity to prove he is ready for a long-term berth.
Dembele’s departure has opened the door for Winks to prove he is ready to come of age under season-defining circumstances on Sunday.
Can he shine like his predecessor did against the title-chasing Reds?