Tottenham Hotspur kickstart the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League group stages with a trip to France as they face Stade Rennes at Roazhon Park this evening.
And manager Nuno Santo will be wanting to see a reaction after the Lilywhites’ unbeaten run in the Premier League came to a crashing end last weekend after they were well-beaten by then-winless Crystal Palace.
Spurs are among the favourites to win the competition but will face the Ligue 1 outfit without several of their key stars, many of whom are either absent through injury or are currently unavailable for other reasons.
One of the biggest decisions facing the Portuguese head coach is his midfield. It was completely overrun against the Eagles on Saturday and that should hardly come as a surprise as it was unbalanced and very one-dimensional.
A trio of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp and Harry Winks saw Spurs lack creativity and the eagerness to move the ball forward – as such, they managed just two shots all game, compared to Palace’s 18, as per SofaScore.
Between the whole side, only two key passes were created, with just one coming from that engine room, so evidently, a change needs to happen and Nuno could well have the ideal solution in Tanguy Ndombele, especially as Giovani Lo Celso is yet to return.
The club-record signing may have wanted to leave the north Londoners in the summer but he has been back in training and will have to now fight for his place and prove that he can still be a key cog this season.
On his day, there is no one more technically gifted and talented in this squad than the Frenchman.
According to ex-Spurs goalkeeper Joe Hart, the 24-year-old dynamo is “unplayable” at times, as revealed by BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand, who said (via football.london):
“I said to Joe, how good is he? And he said ‘this kid is a world-beater, he can do anything.’ He just turned around during the game and said ‘this kid is unplayable.'”
The £45m-rated star is yet to feature for the club this season, so he could certainly do with a runout here this evening.
Last season, Ndombele topped the charts for dribbles per game in the Premier League (2.2), so that goes to show he can be the missing link between defence and the attack. Furthermore, he was one of the most fouled players in the squad, which means he’ll pick up valuable set-pieces and is obviously a tricky man to tackle successfully.
A lot of people would love to see Bryan Gil unleashed in the creative role and whilst he should certainly start this game, it’s the Frenchman that needs to start.
It’s a move that could be game-changing, not just this evening but for the remainder of the season.