Some Tottenham Hotspur fans were hoping that we would get to see a reinvigorated version of Tanguy Ndombele when the Premier League season resumed last week.
The midfielder has been plagued by injuries during his first season at Spurs and has failed to hit anywhere near the expected heights.
His attitude and work rate have been questioned by Jose Mourinho (BBC Sport) and gave the impression that he was not fit enough to complete ninety minutes.
However, reports indicated that Mourinho and his coaching staff have been impressed with the 23-year-old’s attitude over recent weeks in traning.
With Dele Alli suspended for the clash against Manchester United, some fans would have been forgiven for expecting Ndombele to start as the number ten, given that the midfielder was used in the role during the friendly match against Norwich ahead of the restart (Football.London).
The French international was also used in the more forward midfield role in a few cameo appearances off the bench, prior to the league being suspended.
However, it was Erik Lamela who got the nod to start as the number ten ahead of Ndombele in the 1-1 draw against United.
In fact, Tottenham’s record signing did not even get a taste of the action, despite the new rules allowing Mourinho to make five substitutions instead of the usual three.
The Spurs boss chose to bring on Gedson Fernandes and Giovani Lo Celso ahead of Ndombele, while deciding to keep Son and Kane on for the full 90 minutes despite both players showing signs of fatigue.
When asked after the game why he did not make more changes, the Portuguese coach insisted that he would have made more substitutions if he had attacking options on the bench.
While he claimed that the absence of Dele Alli and Lucas Moura did not leave him with any more options, Mourinho did not make any mention of Ndombele.
As quoted by Football.London, the 57-year-old said: “From minute 65, 70, I had some tired people on the pitch without the options to change them because the way we were playing our attacking players were fundamental on the defensive intensity but at the same time they were very important on transition and finding the spaces they were giving us in those moments.
“Without Lucas and Dele, we didn’t have these attacking players on the bench. That could be Dele, Lucas but could also be Bergwijn or Lamela or Sonny.
“I think we felt that in the last 20 minutes, it was easy for them to organise from the back because our pressure was not so intense because we dropped the block due to fatigue.”
That certainly does not sound very encouraging for Ndombele’s prospects of getting much football under his belt during the eight remaining games this season.
I cannot see Mourinho using Ndombele in a deeper role as I think Winks, Skipp, Sissoko, Gedson (and potentially Dier) seem to be his preferred holding midfielders.
I also do not think the Spurs boss trusts the Frenchman to do the defensive work needed to play as a pivot and so the attacking midfield role is the only area in which the Frenchman fits in if Mourinho is going to continue to employ the 4-2-3-1 formation.
With Lamela putting in a fine display against United and Dele Alli also returning from suspension, Ndombele could now find himself pushed further down the pecking order.
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