When Tottenham signed Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the summer transfer window, there was strong optimism amongst Spurs fans that he would provide some much needed stability at the base of the midfield.
However, few could have predicted just how important the Dane would become to this club, to the extent where his mere inclusion on the team sheet provides comfort to fans whenever we play. But what is this down to?
To be clear, the midfielder was never a bad player. He began his career under the management of Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, and after a few loan spells at other Bundesliga teams, joined Southampton in 2016.
Whilst there, Hojbjerg played under four permanent managers, who all had different styles of playing. Most recently, under Ralph Hassenhutl, Hojbjerg was the linchpin of the Southampton midfield.
In this team, Hojbjerg played alongside James Ward-Prowse – a player of similar attacking threat.
However, with Tanguy Ndombele now beside the Dane, a much more versatile attacker, Hojbjerg’s position appears much more fixed in the defensive position, where he is able to fully utilise all of his attributes.
For example, for Southampton last season, Hojbjerg made 80 tackles in the Premier League. However, only halfway through this season, the same player has already made 59 for Spurs, suggesting that he is playing in a deeper role, and is able to break up play to a greater extent.
The same can be seen from the Dane’s clearances. Throughout last season, Hojbjerg made 49 clearances, yet already has 37 this season for his new club. This all leans towards the player playing in a regimented role, and affecting the game as he does best.
This is probably down to the manager whom he currently plays for. Jose Mourinho adopts a completely different style to Hassenhutl.
Mourinho’s habits of being defensively solid and then sprouting counter-attacks have been there for all to see this season. This formation and style allows the Dane to shine, as the key player designed to break up play and then set others on their way.
So although Hojbjerg’s stats look somewhat better playing for Spurs, this is not due to an improvement in him as a player, but is down to the fact that our current style compliments Hojbjerg’s game perfectly.
His stellar performance today against West Brom was evidence of this fact, not only defensively, but offensively in possession too.
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