A global Tottenham Hotspur podcast and viewpoint, by the fans for the fans.
by Atour Toma
It has never really been in doubt that Mousa Dembele is an extremely gifted footballer. Possessing overwhelming strength with a good eye for a pass, the Belgian has all the attributes needed to be one of the best midfielders in the world, and he has gone some way to proving it this season. The announcement of a new four-year contract last week is a testament to how important a player he has become for Spurs.
However until this campaign, Dembele had flattered to deceive at Spurs. His form was erratic, mainly due to previous managers being unable to utilise him effectively. Not being disciplined enough to be a defensive midfielder and not always dynamic enough to be a number ten, he was often caught between two stools trying to impact games from a position of weakness. In fact, Dembele has been linked to a move away from White Hart Lane so much in years gone by, it is almost a surprise he has managed to stay so long.
However this changed with the arrival of head coach Mauricio Pochettino. Over time Pochettino has evaluated Dembele’s qualities – and what he could potentially offer the team – and found him a role that is allowing him to play, probably, the best football of his career. Popular football statistics website, WhoScored.com, ranks Dembele as having the highest average match rating of any Spurs player this season (7.64) and third in the Premier League overall, and it would be hard to argue against this analysis.
Admittedly it did take a while for the Argentine coach to work his magic. Pochettino’s intense demands are well documented, and Dembele was in and out of the side all last season as form and fitness wavered. The Belgian was all too aware of that and was quoted in October 2015 as saying “The first season (2014-2015) was about adaptation to understand what the manager wants. Now we understand the manager’s style and the way he wants to play”.
This season has seen Dembele turn into arguably Tottenham’s most influential player. The introduction of Eric Dier as defensive midfielder has freed up Dembele from a lot of those additional responsibilities and this has allowed him time and space to take control of games and provide an attacking threat. In addition, Dembele has formed a dynamic duo with exciting teenage sensation Dele Alli, with the two players regularly interchanging between central and more advanced positions, confusing the opposition, and taking advantage of their versatility and adaptability. It’s noteworthy, in fact, that Spurs’ only two league defeats since opening day have been when Dembele was out of the side through injury.
In addition, Dembele appears to have recognised his status as one of the senior players in a squad of promising young talent and this is reflected in his increased confidence and leadership on the field. Seasons past may have seen Dembele sharing a dressing room with big personalities and even bigger egos – perhaps a contributing factor to his sometimes subdued performances – but being part of this young, unified side has brought out the best in Dembele, and under Pochettino’s guidance he has gone from strength to strength.
“..being part of this young, unified side has brought out the best in Dembele.”
So what does the future hold for Dembele? For a start, his new contract is a massive show of confidence by Pochettino and the club. On signing, Dembele said “Everyone wants to be part of this team and this club. That’s why I am proud to extend my contract”.
He has now cemented himself as an integral part of the squad and an experienced head in the dressing room – even possible captain-material at some point in the future. He could improve his scoring rate – only 6 goals over the last three and a half seasons – but that will no doubt come with confidence and consistency.
Either way, Dembele looks like he’ll be staying at Spurs for a long time to come and if this season is anything to go by that can only be a good thing.
About the author: