Claude Makélélé, Sergio Busquets, Edgar Davids. All players that rarely get the same plaudits as other stars but form a vital position of any good squad – the defensive midfielder.

I have often said that defensive midfielders are the most important players in any team, and it’s true. They protect your back line, mop up loose balls and ensure that the ball moves forward to your more capable attacking players. They’re the key cog in your eleven and without them, the whole system shuts down.

For us, Romero, Kulusevski and Sonny have been the shining lights this season but one player that’s gone completely under the radar is our defensive stalwart and resident Dane, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.

Højbjerg is the key that unlocks the team and allows us to play further up the pitch and he’s quietly having an extremely solid season, despite what some may argue.

Now, I can already hear the nay-sayers readying their pitchforks and flaming torches but I’m going to back this up with some comparisons. For instance, let’s compare him to two players who play the same/a similar position, Jordan Henderson and N’Golo Kanté.

Højbjerg’s stats can be viewed here (Premier League).

Stat

Højbjerg Henderson Kanté

Appearances

32 31

24

Goals

2 2

2

Assists

2 5

4

Passes per match

69.72 61.32

47.79

Cards (Y/R)

3/0 3/0

1/0

Fouls

27 21

15

Tackle success 63% 55%

53%

Tackles

72 31

53

Blocks

10 8

5

Interceptions 43 23

25

Clearances

43 10

8

Duels won

168 67

109

Duels lost 122 76

80

50/50s won 38 14

35

Errors leading to goals 0 0

0

 

For me, Kanté is the present-day blueprint for the defensive midfielder. The way he sees the play unfolding and how he moves around the field is unmatched by any other player in today’s game so as a comparison, there’s no better.

Similarly, for Henderson, whilst he isn’t the same standard as Kanté, he plays in one of the most dominant club teams of the last 4 years and he rarely misses a game.

If you look at the above table, you can see that Højbjerg is ahead in numerous areas. Yes, he’s had more games than Kanté and probably has more need to defend than both comparisons, but you really can’t argue with the numbers he’s posting.

Of the three, Højbjerg has made 19 more tackles, has a higher percentage of successful tackles by 8% and averages at least 8 more passes per game. He’s made more blocks, made 18 more interceptions, 33 more clearances, won 59 more duels and won more 50/50s.

There’s a clear gulf in some of these areas and it just shows how important Højbjerg is to Spurs and the way we play.

Despite not being at our attacking best, we’ve only conceded 4 goals in 7 games and only 39 goals all season in the Premier League, a record bettered by only Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Wolves (TransferMarkt).

With rumours of Højbjerg being looked at by the newly-rich Newcastle (Mirror), there’s clearly a decision to make on whether we retain him, or cash in.

He’s still only 26 so he’s approaching his prime and if Conte decides to stay, there’s no better manager to keep unlocking the clear potential that Højbjerg has.

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