Moussa Sissoko may have just opened the door for Harry Winks to steal his place in the Tottenham Hotspur midfield after struggling at home to Manchester City on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho has trusted Sissoko with being a key part of his plans in north London this season, but failed to see that faith repaid as the Frenchman boisterously frolicked around the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium without leaving an authoritative impression.
It was the sort of backs-to-the-wall display against Pep Guardiola’s Sky Blues that should have seen Sissoko impose himself more commandingly than he managed, having proven himself as a “big and powerful” unit since joining the Premier League and proving opinions wrong since joining Spurs.
“People look at him and think, ‘Wow he’s big and powerful’ and he looks so serious sometimes – but underneath it, he’s a big softie, really,” Sissoko’s former Newcastle United teammate James Perch told The Athletic.
“I knew he had lots of ability, but I didn’t see a top club buying him. Since he’s gone there, he’s surprised everyone, really.”
Saturday’s 2-0 win over Manchester City was Sissoko’s 12th appearance across all competitions this term, having now started six of Tottenham’s eight Premier League games, featured in two of their three Europa League Group Stage ties and started September’s EFL Cup win over London rivals Chelsea.
Mourinho’s preference to start Sissoko has come at the expense of Spurs product Winks, who has been shunned to the fringes and left feeding off scraps with just 17-minutes of top-flight action to his name since the start of October.
Winks also found himself omitted from Mourinho’s matchday squad for a third time in Tottenham’s last four Premier League fixtures this weekend, just days after telling Sky Sports that he finds it “difficult” being an outcast and reports surfacing that he could request a January transfer.
Spurs, however, will demand £40million should the Premier League title contenders look to sell the midfielder who Mauricio Pochettino once backed to be England’s Andres Iniesta.
“Harry has the profile of the perfect midfield player,” Pochettino said, via quotes by the Evening Standard. “His characteristics are perfect. When we talk about midfielders like [Spain greats] Xavi and Iniesta, he’s like this type of player. He has this capacity.”
Sissoko may have just opened the door for Winks to prove himself to Mourinho, as the £80,000-per-week enforcer could only win two of his four ground duels and one of three aerial contests on route to SofaScore’s lowest match rating for a starting Spurs player at 6.5 out of 10.
He further lost possession eight times, committed one foul, misplaced 30% of his 23 attempted passes, offered no key balls or shots on goal and made just one dribble.
Mourinho saw little defensive impact, either, as Sissoko could only register two clearances, one interception and one successful tackle despite City enjoying 67% of the possession, which they turned into 22 shots.