Why N’Dombele will be a game changer for Spurs

Cast your mind back to the first day of the 2018/19 season, and many Spurs fans could be forgiven for being slightly pessimistic about our options in the middle of the park.

It wasn’t that we didn’t have the talent – just a few months earlier the footballing world had watched in wonder as Mousa Dembele controlled a Champions League quarter final first leg against Juventus, while players such as Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama had proved their worth in previous seasons. What’s more, a young Harry Winks and an even younger Oliver Skipp were finally beginning to make inroads into the first team, each going on to have an exciting season, while the previously disappointing Moussa Sissoko was about to go on to have the season of his life. On paper, at least, it seemed like we had nothing to worry about.

But the game isn’t played on paper and, in reality, there were more issues in the Spurs midfield than you might have noticed at first glance. Dembele, once the lynchpin around which the whole game centred, was beginning to pick up more and more injuries. He was often joined on the sidelines by the previously indomitable Wanyama, while Eric Dier was beginning to be figured out by opposition managers, having exploded onto the scene two years previous. Up to this point, Moussa Sissoko had done little to suggest he was the answer to the midfield problem, while it was too early on in Winks’ career to rely on him on a weekly basis.

A need for penetration

While each player undoubtedly had their strengths it was hard to shake the feeling that, without Dembele, the midfield lacked the dynamism and drive that was so typical of rivals such as Liverpool or Manchester City. And, despite the best efforts of the previously mentioned Sissoko, this was a feeling that stuck around for the remainder of the season. While it didn’t necessarily show in games against some of the lesser lights of the league, against the so-called ‘Big Six’ it was clear that we were lacking something in the middle of the park.

Too often in games there was no real link between the defence and the attack, with countless minutes spent passing the ball back and forth across the pitch, all the while waiting for a killer pass from the likes of Eriksen and Alli. The Champions League final was perhaps the best example of this, when Liverpool were content to simply sit behind the ball and soak up our pressure, aware that we could do little to really break through the lines and get at the heart of their team.

Energy and drive

Which brings us on to our latest and, without a doubt, most exciting signing so far this summer, Tanguy Ndombele. Not just for his price tag. Not just for his potential. But for the qualities he can bring to the team which no other player on the books has.

Words such as powerful, dynamic and athletic have all been attributed to our newest signing in recent weeks, and all are true to some extent. But perhaps the most exciting thing the young Frenchman brings to the team is drive, something which has been severely lacking in consecutive Spurs teams for several seasons now. The drive to break through a defensive wall before picking out a team-mate – the drive to quickly turn defence into attack by carrying the ball up the field – and the drive to take the game to the opposition when some of our more creative players are having one of their quieter games.

Much of the above could be said about Moussa Sissoko, of course, but Ndombele seemingly has the ability to do it on a more consistent basis. Take a look at any YouTube compilation and you’ll see a player full of confidence, using his strength and close ball control to dominate the midfield and find spaces where others can not. In games against both Manchester City and PSG last season he showcased his appetite for the big occasion, picking up man of the match awards in both, while he has also lit up the French national team in 2019 with a string of fine performances.

The Premier League is a notoriously difficult league to adjust to for newcomers, with many big money signings failing to make the kind of impact expected of them in their first seasons. There is much to suggest that this will not be the case for Ndombele, though, with his strength and speed suiting the fast-paced environment of the Premier League.

An exciting prospect

It is clear that the talent, the hunger and the skillset are all there, and in Mauricio Pochettino the young 22-year-old has one of the best mentors of developing players in Europe. And with rumours of more incomings at Spurs lodge before the close of the transfer window, surely it’s only a matter of time now before Spurs secure Mauricio Pochettino’s long-awaited first piece of silverware.


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