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Mousa Dembele - The unspoken, underrated and underappreciated cog

Thursday 27th April 2017
Tottenham Hotspur could well be the best team in the country. For all their wonderful players, the one who is essential to it all is the one who is spoken about the least: Mousa Dembele.
It could well be the case that, while Chelsea sit atop the Premier League table with a rather comfortable seven point gap, Tottenham Hotspur have been the best team that the Premier League has had to offer. With their potent blend of physicality and technical skill in attacking areas, complimenting their defensive abilities thanks to the Belgian partnership of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen at the heart of the back four, under Mauricio Pochettino, the long ridiculed and tainted North London side have far outperformed their bitter rivals, and are the only viable challengers to the supremacy of Chelsea.

However, while the headlines have focused on the preposterous talents of Dele Alli, the goalscoring nous of Harry Kane and the athletic abilities of the two full-backs, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, the man who is often forgotten when discussing the merits of this Spurs side is Mousa Dembele. The midfield domineer is the perfect embodiment of all the good things that Pochettino has cultivated: he is a physical prodigy, with great power and pace; he is smart in his reading of the game; he is technically sound, especially when dribbling forward with the ball rarely escaping his control.

While never considered a player of the same calibre as the Premier League's elite, Dembele has enjoyed another wonderfully consistent season at the heart of the Spurs midfield. Blessed with immense robustness, he has the both technical and physical gifts to make him nigh on impossible to tackle. With his striding leg barring any potential challenge like a giant tree trunk, his body perfectly positioned to shield the ball away from his contender, all the while, keeping the ball under close control, seemingly glued to his left foot as he twists and turns his way into space, Dembele is an outstanding dribbler of the ball.

This season, though, he has also developed further traits that make him a more polished, accomplished central midfielder. Dembele has harnessed his power to make surging runs from midfield, sweeping past players with the swish of his foot and the roll of his body. He has developed his understanding of the game, improving his positioning, both in dictating the tempo of the game from a deep-lying position and, when without the ball, providing protection for the back four, shielding the defence, breaking up play, committing himself to challenges and then instigating attacks.

Dembele has worked on his technique, especially in the striking of the ball, ironing out the inconsistencies in his distribution, especially when looking for the longer range passes; and his decision making is far enhanced, keeping the ball in a calm and assured manner at times when he needs to, and pushing the tempo, playing the incisive, forward-thinking passes at others.

And yet, for all his physical, technical and mental traits, the Belgian is so often overlooked when it comes to the game of praise. He was absent from the PFA Team of the Year, and, in all honesty, never seemed to even be in the discussion, is rarely discussed in footballing debate, and is not the household name that many of his teammates are becoming.

For all of Spurs wonderful players, it is Mousa Dembele who is the key cog in the machine. He makes the whole team tick without missing a beat. He is the metronome in the middle of the park, he is the continual, consistent beat to which everyone else plays. Perhaps it's time the footballing world woke up to his greatness.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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