Jose Mourinho should unleash Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on West Ham this Sunday after seeing Moussa Sissoko struggle against Wolfsberger in the Europa League.
The Tottenham boss took the opportunity to rotate and provide some game time for the fringe players after losing Harry Kane, Sergio Reguilon, Giovanni Lo Celso and Serge Aurier to injury in quick succession, but Sissoko struggled to have much of an impact occupying a deep-lying role.
Goals from Heung-min Son, Gareth Bale and Lucas Moura gave Spurs the lead in the first leg of the Europa League last 32. Yet, Sissoko threatened to undo all their hard work after his clumsy challenge in the box allowed Wolfsberger to pull one back by way of a penalty from Michael Liendl.
It was a night to forget for the Frenchman in Budapest and may have damaged his chances of starting again anytime soon. An uncharacteristically lightweight display from the 31-year-old saw Sissoko lose 70% of his duels overall, winning just four out of his 13 ground duels in total, as he struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Compare this to that of Hojbjerg’s with the Dane’s duel success rate a fine 51% this season, and it’s clear just how much they missed out by having Sissoko on the pitch for as long as they did instead.
Hojbjerg burst onto the scene at Southampton after a brief stint with Bayern Munich. Having excelled for the Saints, Spurs took a punt on the versatile midfielder and have been duly rewarded, with the 25-year-old establishing himself as one of the club’s most consistent and reliable performers this season.
In 23 Premier League appearances this season, he has so far averaged a WhoScored match rating of 6.97 for his efforts, that being the best of all midfielders and the fourth-highest overall, bettered only by the likes of Kane, Son and Tanguy Ndombele.
And this is simply why he must start against West Ham on Sunday. “Pierre is, first of all, very intelligent. He reads the game very well. He’s going to be a coach one day, for sure,” Mourinho said after the 2-0 win over Arsenal.
“Physically, he’s very, very strong, and technically he’s much better than people think. Because sometimes people think the guy that is good technically is the guy that does the backheel. The guy that is good technically is the guy that does something wonderful. But these are not my words. These are words from coaches of 30, 40 years ago. Simplicity is genius.
“And the guy is so simple in everything he does with the ball. And I think he’s a phenomenal player. Congratulations, Mr Levy.”
Having Hojbjerg at their disposal is at least one of the few positives for the Lilywhites, who have otherwise endured a rather frustrating season as they currently lie six points adrift of the top four
No other Spurs star is averaging as many as Hojbjerg’s 2.8 tackles per game, while he also tops the charts for interceptions (1.3 per game) and is third behind Kane and Son for assists this term, as per WhoScored.
That merely shows how big an influence he is on this Spurs team – a game-changer.
Starting the Danish midfielder against David Moyes’ side would be a good step in the right direction and could put them back on track heading into the business end of the season.
He has the ability to change the game in their favour from the anchorman role, especially with Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard in fine mettle in front of Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice.
AND in other news, Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale stole the show in vital Europa League win…