‘Need a little freedom’ – Ndombele opens up on how he has improved at Spurs

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Tanguy Ndombele has opened up on how he has evolved as a player since arriving at Tottenham last summer, admitting that he now plays with more maturity.

Ndombele was very much a raw talent when Spurs shelled out a club-record £53.8m fee to snap him from Lyon in the summer of 2019.

The Frenchman struggled to make an impact in his first season in North London and did not seem to get along with Jose Mourinho.

However, the midfielder has battled back to become one of the first names on Mourinho’s teamsheet this season.

When asked if he has his smile back after a difficult first season in the Premier League, Ndombele told RMC Sport: “I feel good. And with all that is going on in life today, I can only be smiling.

“I am a lucky person. In football, things are going well, so things are going well at the moment in my life.

“When you arrive in a club, you ask yourself a lot of questions. I think it played out in my last season as well.

“Then there was the crisis which made me relativize. And on the pitch, things are better, especially if I compare to last season.”

Ndombele put in a sub-par display in the North London Derby on Sunday, with Tottenham’s midfield getting over-run by Arsenal, particularly in the first half.

Mourinho admitted after the game that he expected more intensity from the 24-year-old.

However, Ndombele’s showing on Sunday was very much an anomaly compared to how he has played this season as the midfielder has evidently improved his work-rate.

When asked how he has changed as a player, the former Lyon man admitted that he now picks his moments when taking risks.

He said: “I don’t approach games the same way. I have more confidence and the club has helped me to have more confidence in myself.

“I also worked physically during the break from the championships last season, so I’m less injured. I am more mature too. Afterwards, I have less madness in my game, but that’s how it is.

“I have less recklessness in my game. There are times when I can project myself and move forward and I do it less. Before, I wouldn’t have asked myself any questions. That’s what I feel.”

When asked if being less carefree meant he was not having the same amount of fun, Ndombele responded: “No not necessarily. There are things that I didn’t do before that I have more fun now. More defending, running, tackling.

“Before, it was more dribbling, making assists. I have freedom, the coach knows that. I’m not a player who can be told to stay put.

“I need a little freedom but I try not to abuse it and do what’s right for the team.

“It’s just being more mature, for me. I’m still a player who does good things with the ball, but we will say that I think more of the team.

“I took more pleasure for myself before I gave it to the team. I am less selfish now.”

Spurs Web Opinion

On the evidence of what we have seen over the last couple of months, I believe that a midfield pairing of Ndombele and Hojbjerg leaves us defensively susceptible unless we press the opposition high up the pitch and dominate possession.

Tracking runs and covering space is not Ndombele’s strong suit which is why I prefer seeing him play as a ten if we are set up to defend deep and counter-attack. That gives him more freedom to take risks when he is on the ball.

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