Tottenham's Squad Review - Who Stays and Who Goes in Midfield
Tottenham's 2017/18 was a minor setback in their progress towards a Premier League title. Midfielders' development stagnated. Mauricio Pochettino's style is built upon break-neck speed. Spurs use it to transition from defence and attack. Injuries and lack of player growth resulted in a semifinal exit from the FA Cup and a third-place finish in the Premier League, a dip in form after three straight years of improvement made even larger by Manchester City's overwhelming title run.
In this part of our Squad Review series, we take a detailed look into the Spurs midfield.
The 2016/17 campaign resonated with praise for Dele Alli. The England international produced 19 goals and seven assists in all competitions. Last season was a different story. There was more rage in his game but less bite. He ended the season with 11 goals, 14 assists and eight yellow cards. In terms of goals contributed, one fewer is hardly disturbing. As a young player, improvement was anticipated along with better discipline.
While his contribution to the build-up is evident from the assists, his goal-scoring certainly declined. Still, the 22-year-old midfielder has his best years ahead of him and is set to stay at Spurs for a long time.
Another young prospect in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad, Dier is a versatile midfielder who can play a holding or central role. While he too couldn’t better 2016/17 performances, it certainly can’t be said that he had a bad season.
In 47 appearances for the club, Dier put in 1.2 clearances per game and successful tackles. He continued to act as a screen for the defence while picking up three assists on the side.
Like Alli, he should be an everpresent fixture in the team.
Tottenham’s Great Dane is their creative impetus. The 26-year-old made 47 appearances for his club, raking in 13 goals and 11 assists. Impressive as they are, those figures represent a decline in his performance.
The 17/18 campaign was his least productive of the past three, especially considering he plays the role of primary provider for the forwards up front. That said, a stellar World Cup proves his class can never be doubted. He is also in Pochettino's long-term plans, although there is a greater chance another big club will attempt to unsettle him.
The Belgian international turned 31 in July and finally received the recognition he deserved. He served as a pivotal player for Spurs this season, figuratively and literally. Dembele helped the team transition from defence to attack while keeping possession and breaking up opposition attacks while continuing to show up in decisive moments.
Unfortunately, age is starting to get the best of him. His current contract ends next year and there’s no news of an extension. It’s expected he’ll move to a new club next season if not this summer.
Winks is a homegrown player. He made his way into the Premier League in 2016/17 and was supposed to establish him as a successor to Mousa Dembele in his sophomore campaign. Injury marred his season; he made only 25 appearances.
He tried to play through the injury, rather than opting for surgery, and couldn't reprise his form. Ultimately, his dream of playing in the World Cup will have to wait four more years. When fit, he can play really well. Schooling Luka Modric in a Champions League game confirms anyone's talent.
The France international made 47 appearances for the club as part of Pochettino’s rotation policy. The intention is to eliminate injury and provide game time to his deep squad. It certainly does the latter but if you've been paying attention to this point, you can see it's not keeping players out of the physio's hands.
He put in two goals and two assists for the team. While he has far more esses in his name, Moussa Sissoko isn’t Mousa Dembele. He’s more of a squad player with great tenacity and stamina. Pochettino generally used him to close matches. His contract with the Lilywhites extends till 2021.
Wanayama is a Kenyan international who signed for Spurs from Southampton in 2016/17. Like Dier, he offers a versatile option. He can play in defensive midfield as well at centre-back. The majority of his 24 appearances were as a holding mid.
He missed the season's first half due to a knee injury. When fit, his performances lacked finesse. After he returned, he was more often used to close games rather than in his usual rotation. Spurs are reportedly listening to offers but it looks likely he’ll return this season.