Mousa Dembele has featured in the last seven league games for Spurs. He has filled in for Nabil Bentaleb during the Africa Cup of Nations and has given the club a question to answer: should Dembele stay in the first team?
Impressively, Dembele has collected five Squawka awards in seven games. He has created eleven chances and grabbed a goal against Liverpool with 100% shot accuracy. This, coupled with eleven out of fifteen completed take-ons goes to show that Dembele has excelled recently. This run of form is largely thanks to Pochettino’s tweaking of the way he utilises him.
Many past Spurs managers liked to play Dembele deep as a deep-lying playmaker. However, recently Dembele has played a much higher role up in the pitch, still very much a playmaker, but instead in the final third of the opposition’s half. Finally, he has been able to show his true ability with that exceptional dribbling ability including his gargantuan strength, but agile and skilful feet. Where Dembele was once beating a man in his own half just to pass it back to the defence, he is now beating a man to have his own attempt on goal or set up his team-mates. Yet another great piece of tactical awareness from Pochettino.
However, can he keep it up?
In all honesty, Mousa hasn’t been the most consistent in his time with Spurs. This isn’t dismissive of his fantastic abilities, more an exasperated plea for improvement. In the Liverpool game, he was really fired up. He was always looking for the ball and was impossible to deal with (although he was a little prone to rugby tackles from a certain Mamadou Sakho). His diamond performance in this game shone in comparison to the often uninspiring performances we have seen from him in the past.
The rise of Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason was minimally affected by the absence of Dembele’s desire and commitment. There have been times where there has been a lack of effort: a lack of care. The whole reason why Mason and Bentaleb got to where they are, is through putting their bodies on the line. Mason is puny in size in comparison to Dembele, yet puts twice the commitment in to tackle any man on the pitch. It becomes quite clear to see that perhaps Mousa isn’t the man to rely on.
Now, this is not to say that he should disappear and never come back. Far from it. Instead, Dembele should be looking to become more consistent. He has proven over the last few games that his consistency is getting better. A player of his ability could be worth so much to Spurs. It’s important that Pochettino continues to include him in his plans so that he can truly reach his potential. At the grand old age of 28, the Belgian should really be firing on all cylinders by now.
The supporters will never get bored of watching Dembele glide effortlessly past two, three players, each in turn bouncing off him like irrelevant gnats, before dispatching a rocket into the bottom corner just like against Lyon a few years ago. However, they would soon rather see Bentaleb or Mason put in performance after performance rather than an occasional glimpse of something other-worldly.
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