Mousa Dembélé has been a revelation for Spurs after making his first start in five weeks against Liverpool, his performance really giving Pochettino food for thought.
After the stalemate at Liverpool, Dembélé emerged with the man of the match award and rightly so. His 91% pass accuracy (the highest in the team) coupled with 72% of duels won really demonstrated his class. His class was a diamond in what was a pretty average game, but every one of his gleaming facets stood out. Statistics only confirmed what was really pleasing on the eye for Spurs fans. All of Dembélé’s take-ons succeeded in his usual strong yet effortless gliding dribbling style. Furthermore, Dembélé carried out his defensive duties well, making a few crucial last ditch tackles before helping his team to counter. All in all, Dembélé had a cracking game, pleasing Pochettino and the fans alike.
Can Dembélé continue in this vain? Of course! He wasn’t the man of the match for striking a 35-yard fluke volley into the top right corner, no, he was the man of the match because he proved to be the best footballer out on the Lane’s pitch. Wesley Sonck would agree that Dembélé is a player with supreme skill and technical ability, whether he is as good as Eden Hazard or Kevin de Bruyne is yet to be seen, who is able to play a holding role with real aplomb. But, a question mark has always hovered over where Dembélé is deployed. If Sonck is right and Dembélé is truly technically gifted to that extent, why are Spurs playing him in a deep role? Shouldn’t Pochettino deploy him in a more advanced midfield position? The argument is that Dembélé is able to beat two men with ease, but no player is going to be effective offensively when starting from so deep. Pochettino must experiment with the line-up if Dembélé is to finally prove his worth. After all, at the ripe old age of 28, he really does need to start playing his A-game.
If Pochettino does select Dembélé for the next match, where would he fit? He was played in a deep role against Liverpool because there was no other so-called defensive midfielder available due to Eric Dier’s suspension. One way he could be incorporated into the starting eleven would be to play him with Dier. Therefore, Dembélé gains the freedom of being able to attack whilst Dier covers him. Also, if Spurs are on the back foot, Dembélé can provide a solid screen for the back four alongside Dier. It seems to be a dream combination, yet where does Dele Alli fit in? Eriksen would have to be pushed out to the left wing, with Alli in that number 10 role. This could be effective and wouldn’t put any player’s nose out of joint so long as Nacer Chadli is sidelined by injury. This would also allow Dembélé and Alli to swap, making it a versatile and offensive midfield.
In the longer term, Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason will return, throwing the entire starting eleven into contention yet again. Therefore, Dembélé’s performances now could well shape the rest of his season and his minutes of gameplay. There’s no reason why Dembélé can’t keep that dynamic duo out, but he will need to put in consistently good performances, something he hasn’t been renowned for. However, Spurs fans will be hoping that they can finally see this truly majestic player prove his worth and start playing to his true potential.
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