Mousa Dembele appears to be only edging closer to the exit door at Tottenham.
It was reported last month that the Belgium international will not extend his contract until after the World Cup, his current terms due to expire at the end of next season, and Gazzetta added more fuel to the uncertainly over his future last week by claiming Inter Milan have taken an interest in the 30-year-old.
Which all begs an important question – how do Tottenham replace a midfielder who combines eloquence with sheer power so perfectly that Mauricio Pochettino compared him to Diego Maradona back in February? The obvious answer is via the transfer market, but Totteham already have plenty of talent at the club and money’s a little tight with the stadium move imminent.
With that in mind, Football FanCast outline four suggested solutions…
It’s easy to forget that Dele Alli was considered a box-to-box midfielder when he first arrived at Spurs, initially lining up as one of the pivot options in Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1.
Of course, an immaculate flurry of goals since has changed that perception, but Alli’s outings against Nigeria and Costa Rica in a roaming No.8 role, driving forward from midfield, provided a crucial reminder that the 22-year-old is as much a midfielder as he is a forward.
He’s certainly got the creativity and flair to replace what Dembele offers in possession, and he’s a hard worker too. Perhaps the most important questions though are whether Alli – who Transfermarkt value at £90million – can still score a similar supply of goals from deep, and how much of his tally from the last few seasons is worth sacrificing for the sake of a wider impact on the game from midfield.
It’s been a difficult second half of the season for Harry Winks, having suffered from a series of ankle problems, to the extent that his composed and precise passing performances against Real Madrid and an impressive England debut against Lithuania back in October have largely been forgotten about.
But the 22-year-old remains a hugely promising talent, largely through his incredible adeptness at always being ready to receive the ball, and in terms of his ability to dictate play in deep areas he can certainly replicate arguably the greatest asset Dembele brings to this Tottenham side.
The counter-argument is of course, that Dembele’s at the pinnacle of his career whereas Winks has only ever made 37 Premier League appearances. But Pochettino’s built this entire Tottenham team on giving chances to promising young players – Winks is certainly one of those.
Spurs would still need some extra depth in the middle of the park, but in Dembele’s absence Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama forge perhaps the most obvious partnership.
They’d certainly give the defence lots of protection – Dier is part-centre-half by nature and often uses that versatility to slot between Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen, whereas Wanyama offers brute strength.
The concern though, is how one-dimensional they are as out-and-out defensive midfielders. It’s a massive contrast from Dembele who uses his power to win the ball back as well, but always puts Tottenham back on the front foot with the right pass or a driving dribble. Wanyama and Dier lack that technical cuteness and confidence in possession.
It’s perhaps the simplest solution and either way, Tottenham will likely have to sign someone this summer to bolster their engine room ranks should Dembele leave regardless of what significance they enjoy in the squad.
But in terms of signing a direct replacement, some names from around the Premier League do stand out – Abdoulaye Doucoure of Watford is probably top of the list, followed by the likes of Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina. They all have that power combined with quality on the ball.
Yet, none are hugely convincing and that’s perhaps because Dembele is such a unique entity – there aren’t many players in world football who operate in the engine room in quite the same way. That suggests Spurs could be better off changing the dynamics of their midfield rather than trying to directly replicate what Dembele offers them. With that in mind, a new signing probably isn’t the best way to go.
So, Tottenham fans, which solution would you go for? Let us know by voting below…
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