Opinion: Why Tanguy Ndombele is not thriving in Mourinho’s current system

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Tanguy Ndombele serves as an example to all Tottenham Hotspur players that it is possible to turn your career around under Jose Mourinho.

Since arriving from Lyon in 2019, the 24-year-old has managed to integrate himself into a regular starter in the Spurs midfield.

Ndombele had a troublesome start to life in England. After falling out of favour with Mourinho, speculation began to emerge around the Frenchman’s future at the club.

During an interview with football.london, Spurs’ £60million man admitted:

“To be perfectly honest with you I don’t know how close I was to leaving,” he said. “What I know is that I did want to leave. I spoke about this with people at the club and particularly with the chairman.

Such were his difficulties in England, his potential exit was becoming a real worry for Spurs fans. The majority were aware of the capabilities of Ndombele. Therefore, relief filtered through North London after the midfielder remained at the club.

Since this moment, Mourinho began to work on his relationship with Ndombele. This even involved breaking lockdown protocols, as Mourinho organised a fitness session with the midfielder. Both were condemned for the activity but this seemingly kickstarted Ndombele into form.

During the 2020/21 campaign, Ndombele has accumulated only 3 goals and 1 assist in the Premier League (transfermrkt). This may well due to the deeper position he has taken up in the current system at Spurs.

It has become apparent that Ndombele may not be utilising his talent due to his increasing defensive duties. Often this season, Ndombele has lined up in a two alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

Usually, there is a number ten utilised in front of this two. This prevents the likes of Ndombele and Hojbjerg from advancing too high without leaving the defence vulnerable to a counterattack.

Continuously, Ndombele’s goals and assists have come when he has played in that more advanced role.

His goals against Manchester United, Sheffield United and Wolves have all been a result of adventurous runs from midfield, into advancing roles.

It is evident that the Frenchman has exceptional dribbling skills. During the 20/21 campaign, he completes an average of 2.87 dribbles. As well as this, he completes 99% of the dribbles he attempts per 90 (fbref). This is his most successful attribute as a player.

The average is 0.94 in the Premier League, putting Ndombele levels above his rivals.

From this, we can infer that Ndombele’s usefulness is not being maximised under the current system at Spurs. His jaw-dropping talent with the ball at his feet would be better placed in a more advanced role.

By allowing him the freedom of the final third of the pitch, he could maximise his output and provide more attacking threats to Spurs’ play.

Furthermore, we would see his goal and assist tally surely increase. This could be due to the fact that he would have the opportunity to play closer to the likes of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, and Gareth Bale.

Whilst the French international is paired in a midfield two, it’s as if there is a chain attached to his ankle, preventing him from adding an extra creative outlet in this Spurs side.

That is not to say that he does not perform well in his current position. Ndombele is undoubtedly one of the first names on the team sheet currently. He certainly adds assuredness and calmness to the heart of the team.

Having said this, we may see this change of position for Ndombele next season. Oliver Skipp will be returning from his loan spell at Norwich, having impressed in the Championship.

Skipp could take that position alongside Hojbjerg as part of the central midfield two next season.

This would allow Ndombele to venture further forward, and occupy those advanced roles that so many want to see him in.

To conclude, Ndombele is undoubtedly a versatile player. Whilst he can occupy that central midfield position, he lacks the license to attack.

Therefore, it would be interesting to see how he fares in that advanced role. He could provide our front three with that extra quality that could see us become a more free-scoring team.

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  1. I think your right. But the problem is then what about gio do we just rotate him and ndombele if skip comes back. Because I think having both gio and ndombele on the field is a must, Gio if fully fit could even play in the 2 with hoiberg, he has good work rate and puts a tackle in. And if we are imposing ourselves on teams, they shouldn’t be all over us like some games this year especially with the smaller teams, giving them licence to play and come at us.


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