When football analysts and pundits are assigned the responsibility of pinpointing a particular area of the pitch crucial to the outcome of a match, they usually identify the centre of the park, also known as the midfield as the zone of extreme importance.
Nowadays, central-midfielders are burdened with numerous tasks given the expanded dynamic of football tactics. Not only are they required to control the tempo of the game and link up with their colleagues upfront, they are also entrusted with defensive duties, thus rendering their presence on the pitch vital. Often viewed as the anchor or fulcrum of a team, these players generally work the hardest, purely in terms of miles racked up during a contest. All that said and done, it is the latter that appears to have invigorated Tottenham Hotspur and their challenge for the Premier League crown this season.
Following their impressive 2-0 victory against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at White Hart Lane, praises were showered on a host of individuals, particularly Dele Alli and Victor Wanyama. Their displays were lauded by manager Mauricio Pochettino as well and that has led the football spectrum to believe Tottenham now boast the finest midfield in the division.
In Moussa Sissoko, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier, the North-Londoners possess a plethora of talent in that department. Squad depth is key for any side to mount a serious challenge for domestic honours and Pochettino’s understanding of Tottenham’s commitments, both in England and Europe has proved to be exemplary. Barring their frustrating defeat to Monaco on the opening day of the Champions League, Tottenham have been unbeaten in all competitions, the only side left in the Premier League with that distinction.
Statistically, Pochettino’s men have only been outworked by Liverpool and Manchester City on the pitch. As of September 19, Tottenham covered a total of 566 kilometres in their five league outings, further simplified into a commendable average of 113.2 kilometres per game. The difference between them and the other two meticulous sides is that Tottenham have only conceded three goals so far, seven fewer than Liverpool and four than City. While the defensive duo of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld have earned critical acclaim for their performances, their job has been made a whole simpler with Wanyama marshalling the side ahead of them. With eight interceptions and two blocks to his name so far, the Kenyan international has looked the business for his side. What makes the prospect of Tottenham’s midfield so exciting for their supporters and dangerous for their opponents is that Mousa Dembele is yet to hit his stride for the club this season.
Alli too has made the impact expected of him. With two goals to his name, the young English sensation looks set to build on his memorable debut season at Tottenham and has been complemented by Heung-Min Son in attack. The South Korean dynamite has turned the tide for himself following a lacklustre year and has effectively swayed the supporters’ minds away from Harry Kane’s injury. By the looks of it, the aforementioned players are just getting started and the strength they aim to assert in the league this year is a frightening proposition for their rivals.
The departures of Ryan Mason and Nacer Chadli in the summer were not received well by the White Hart Lane faithful and Pochettino was compelled to sign Moussa Sissoko from Newcastle United on a joint club-record transfer on deadline day to extinguish the displeasure offset earlier. The Frenchman, despite having been lambasted during his spell in Tyneside appears to have rejuvenated his career, following a good run of form in the Euros for his country. He was at his industrious best against City and gave Aleksandar Kolarov a torrid time down the left-hand side, much to his manager’s delight. Given how Pochettino has shaped the dynamic of his team, a player of Sissoko’s quality seems ideal and his attributes help expedite his side’s endeavours going forward. Early days, but a sound acquisition so far.
Tireless efforts both on and off the ball have made Tottenham’s midfield a whole lot better and the presence of Wanyama in defensive midfield appears to have answered questions raised about that area of the field. Should they develop consistency throughout the season, they may help fire their side to the ultimate prize.