The levels of scrutiny for players in the Premier League can be extremely intense. There are plenty of fans and pundits that just wait for the chance to be naysayers. Every poor touch, misplaced pass, or scuffed shot will be pounced upon by those with something to say. The naysayers were well aware of Moussa Sissoko and his underwhelming Tottenham career heading into this season. The £30 million signing from Newcastle was the brunt of criticism and jokes alike with his inconsistent and ineffective play. Suddenly, the Frenchman has begun to turn things around this campaign. He made his 100th appearance for Spurs at the weekend in a 6-2 drubbing of Everton. His performance at Goodison Park shows just how far he has come.
The Moussa Sissoko Project
In Sissoko’s first two seasons with Tottenham, nothing seemed to work. He played out wide, in the middle, up front supporting the attack. None of it worked. Whether he started matches or he came on as a substitute, the results were the same. His touch was often poor, his passes misplaced, and he was guilty of far too many sloppy giveaways. Spurs themselves seemed unaffected, as they have had two of their best ever Premier League seasons in the past two years. Unfortunately, their big signing could never seem to get going for them. Moussa Sissoko’s poor form had him destined for a transfer. Surely Spurs would cut their losses and sell him at a much lower value than when he was brought in. Rumblings and rumours abound in the summer, but the transfer window came and went, and the 29-year-old remained in North London.
Even as this season started it wasn’t as if he was in blistering form. The midfielder was still struggling to connect with teammates on the pitch and his first touch was still betraying him. However, there was something different about his game. Sissoko began to play with a relentlessness that allowed him to affect games even while struggling to produce quality. In some ways, he willed himself into better form through pure effort and determination. As this season progressed, he began to put in workmanlike shifts as he settled into a role at centre midfield. He still had mishaps with the ball at his feet, but the rest of his game began to take shape. His effectiveness tracking back and breaking up play was the first to rise. The Frenchman also ran tirelessly to open space for his fellow Spurs teammates.
Growing in Confidence
After a few performances like this, things started to fall into place. By merely playing with a relentlessness effort level, Sissoko was able to raise his game. His confidence grew with each performance, and eventually, his passing started to get better. His hold up play and connection with teammates began to pay dividends. He started to pick out passes to spring counterattacks and became much more aggressive with the ball at his feet. The midfielder’s pace and strength have really shown through in the past few months. He is now confident enough and willing to run at defenders, creating more space for the likes of Dele Alli, Erik Lamela, and Christian Eriksen.
Slowly, Moussa Sissoko’s influence grew each game. He still played with the same energy and effort, and finally, his touch had stopped betraying him. Like every player, he still has his mishaps, but they have become fewer and farther in between. Two of Tottenham’s goals in their 6-2 thrashing of Everton were sparked by Sissoko’s quick passing that pushed them forward on the break. While he only has one assist in the Premier League this season, he has often been the one making the pass that leads to the assist.
Spurs have a multitude of talented attacking players, and the Frenchman has developed a knack for getting them the ball in areas where they can make things happen. Even with all the international talent on this squad, it’s Moussa Sissoko who has been one of Tottenham’s most consistent and steady performers this season. That is not a statement anyone would’ve thought they’d be saying after his first two years with the club.
Injuries have been a huge factor for Tottenham to navigate around this season. Moussa Dembele, Eric Dier, and Victor Wanyama have spent various amounts of time on the training table. The absence of these three left a huge hole in the middle of this Spurs squad. With his full-time move to a central midfield role this season, Moussa Sissoko has rescued this team from its injury woes. His versatility and tireless work rate have allowed Spurs to continue to play at a high level despite missing multiple key midfielders. Tottenham sit third in the table as the New Year approaches. The turnaround of their once-maligned Frenchman has been a huge part of their success at the midway point of the 2018-19 campaign.
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