Tottenham Hotspur duo Heung-min Son and Harry Kane will take most of the plaudits when it comes to their impressive start to the season, but one of their unsung teammates must get his fair share of the acclaim too.
French midfielder Moussa Sissoko has been totally transformed this season, all thanks to the astute coaching of Jose Mourinho and his staff.
The 31-year-old was signed by Mauricio Pochettino in 2016, joining in a £30m deal from Newcastle United but never truly hit the heights that such a high fee should command.
Within a year, some fan sites were criticising Daniel Levy for splashing that much money on a player that wasn’t really cutting the mustard in north London.
During his first two seasons at the club, Sissoko failed to start more than 15 league matches before finally breaking through as a key part of Pochettino’s side.
In the Argentine’s final full season in charge of Tottenham, the 6 foot 2 midfielder averaged just 1.2 tackles, 0.6 interceptions and an 86.7% passing success rate, via WhoScored.
That summer, he made a club-record £55m swoop for Tanguy Ndombele, who was undoubtedly brought in to succeed the ageing Frenchman long-term. Even more so after Pochettino distanced himself from his contract extension in 2019.
However, under the Special One, those three facets have all drastically increased this term with Sissoko managing 1.8 tackles, 1.8 interceptions and 90.8% passing accuracy.
In addition, Sissoko has seen improvements in terms of ball recoveries, loose balls won and defensive duels won per 90 minutes, via Twenty3, having ranked outside the Premier League’s top 150 for all statistics in that 18/19 campaign.
Every club that Mourinho has been at, he’s been blessed with solid enforcers in the engine room – at Real Madrid, it was Sami Khedira while that famous Inter Milan squad enjoyed Thiago Mottai in his prime.
But at arch-rivals Chelsea, it was Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel. None of these were flashy-types or players you’d consider to be a superstar. They are there to do the simple jobs and to make others around them thrive.
Which is why Sissoko often goes unnoticed in north London. Mourinho has effectively transformed the midfield powerhouse into his new Essien.
Football Insider pundit Kevin Phillips compared the Spurs ace to Steven Gerrard, he said: “He is a superb player – power, pace and travels with the ball really well. He can take the ball in tight situations with his strength. Sissoko is a huge player for Tottenham. He reminds me of Gerrard, a little bit.”
Without him, that midfield would be a whole lot weaker than it is.