Opinion: The final piece to Tottenham’s lacking midfield puzzle

Image: SpursWeb

The midfield is a vitally important part of modern-day football. If you look at any top club, playing through any formation, the ‘engine room’ of the team is an ever-present.

Liverpool have Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum and Thiago. Manchester City have Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and more. These players are constant features in their starting XIs and I believe are a key part to the success of those clubs.

As far as ever-present midfielders go, we have Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele. 

The signing of Pierre Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton last Summer was inarguably our best deal of the summer.

The Dane has provided us with stability in the midfield that we have needed for the last few seasons, happily marshalling the defence and also showing a willingness to get forward in certain situations. 

To say we have relied on him this season is an understatement. He has featured in every Premier League game this campaign, 33 in total, and has played every single minute (2970.) He has registered one goal, a screamer against Liverpool, and three assists.

His game has so many different avenues that it is astounding we managed to get him for the price we did.

His press is second to nobody else in the side, his ability on the ball is good, his forward passing equally so, he isn’t shy in blocking transitions with a tactical foul, (racking up six yellow cards in the Premier League) and his defensive work is surely what has made him Tottenham’s on-pitch general since his signing.

His midfield counterpart for the majority of the season has been Tanguy Ndombele, a somewhat surprising statement when considering many people had written him off after being publicly called out by Mourinho for a poor first season at Spurs.

Ndombele has featured 43 times for us this season (30 in the Premier League) and has provided six goals, most notably a wonderful finish against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. 

Though he still rarely plays a full 90 minutes, it is clear that Mourinho trusted the Frenchman to play both in a deeper role alongside Hojbjerg, and as a Number 10, providing the vision we need in our midfield to provide chances to the likes of Kane, Son and Moura. 

The third place in midfield has been somewhat chopped and changed this season, however. It seemed that Mourinho favoured Moussa Sissoko during the first phase of the campaign, with him and Hojbjerg almost forming a back six against teams such as Chelsea and Man City.

Academy graduate Harry Winks has found Premier League football hard to come by this season, featuring just 11 times throughout the season and seemingly not gaining the trust of Mourinho when he played.

Giovani Lo Celso has had an injury ridden season, unable to string together consistent starts, and has been relatively unimpressive when he has.

I still feel that Lo Celso has more to give as an impact substitute, a role he played brilliantly in our 2-0 win against Manchester City.

In recent times, Mourinho has turned to Lucas Moura as a Number 10, and while the Brazilian has impressed in this role, I can’t help but think he will be back in his preferred position at right-wing when Gareth Bale inevitably goes back to see out the remainder of his contract at Real Madrid.

That leaves one position to be nailed down in our midfield, and for me, that position should be given to Oliver Skipp.

The 20-year-old midfielder was previously heralded as a ‘future Tottenham captain’ by Mourinho, who clearly saw heaps of potential in the youngster. 

He has spent this season at Norwich, where he has been a mainstay in the heart of their midfield, making 46 appearances in total, and is seemingly heading back to Hotspur Way with a Championship Winners medal.

He has essentially been the Championship version of Pierre Emile Hojbjerg, and although you might say that you don’t want two of the same players in the midfield, both players possess different characteristics that, when paired together, should complement each other.

Skipp is definitely one for the future, and I think should be given a fair crack of the whip next season.

With Giovani Lo Celso coming in when rotation is needed, and Ndombele dropping back alongside Hojbjerg to accommodate, we essentially give ourselves two different formations within a midfield three.

We can utilise this in different matches, and rotate when players are in need of a rest. Time will tell if Skipp is ready to become a bonafide Premier League starter, but I think he deserves the chance.

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