Tim Sherwood’s Tottenham Hotspur side made it five wins and one draw in six league games under his tenure after the game against Swansea; two goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and an own goal from Chico Flores, while Wilfried Bony netted the consolation.
Spurs are now level on points with Liverpool. One player who raised a few eyebrows when brought into the Spurs set up by Tim Sherwood, was Algerian youngster Nabil Bentaleb, who is also eligible to play for France.
But in Tim Sherwood’s defence, it was a player he trusted, as he managed the Spurs midfielder in the Youth Development squad, who turned out excellent performances for the U21s.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for Nabil Bentaleb in his short football career so far, though.
Speaking to the Spurs match day programme last week, Bentaleb stated:
I was released a few times and many clubs didn’t want to open their doors for me. Lille let me go when I was 14, just at the time you start seriously dreaming of becoming a professional footballer.
“That was a very tough time for me and I had two choices: I could either give up and not right for what I wanted or try to show them they were wrong.
The trial at Tottenham was very important for me. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself by thinking it was my last chance. I just wanted to impress the coaches. Fortunately, I was able to do that and it was enough to secure a move here.”
Following his excellent passing success rate last weekend versus Crystal Palace, where he accurately played 100 passes out of 107 – a 93% passing rate, Tim Sherwood decided to play the same central midfield against Swansea City, with Mousa Dembele and Nabil Bentaleb rotating positions in midfield on various occasions.
Not renowned for his defensive midfield work, more of a player who is neat in possession and keeps the ball ticking over, Bentaleb went a long way to defy some critics stating his defensive qualities were not of Etienne Capoue’s magnitude.
In the 90 minutes he played against the Swans, Bentaleb made 10 tackles, successfully winning them all – averaging 9 minutes per tackle.
The Spurs youngster had a 100% aerial duel rate, while winning 83% of his 12 ground duels.
While the Algerian midfielder isn’t primarily a defensive midfielder, it seems Bentaleb could be moulded into one.
He was dispossessed just two times throughout the entire 90 minutes, while he averaged 10 minutes per possession won, and also totalling two interceptions.
The next element of his game is his ability to keep possession, finding team-mates and creating space in midfield to start up attacks.
Nabil Bentaleb obtained a 91% passing rate (53/58 passes) – a pass every 0.6 minutes.
Some criticism aimed at the Spurs youngster is that he’s just playing the ball from left to right:
It can be argued that he is, with 28% of his passes to his left, with 31% to his right.
Although, he is showing confidence on the ball, coming deep to get the ball from the defence; resulting in 34 attempted defensive zone passes, 24 attempted attacking zone passes, with just 7 passes in the final 3rd.
Bentaleb played 28% of his passes forwards, with just 14% backwards.
The criticism Nabil Bentaleb has receieved is also aimed at Mousa Dembélé, with critics saying they just pass left to right. Well, if that can be argued, it can be aimed at Mousa Dembele rather than Nabil Bentaleb.
Against Swansea City, Dembele played just 16% of his 56 passes forwards, with 18% backwards, with the telling statistic of his passes being played 34% to his left and 32% to his right.
It seems Bentaleb is leaving midfield partner, Mousa Dembélé, to attack from midfield. Dembélé doubled Bentaleb’s final 3rd passes, with 15 – a 80% final 3rd pass completion to Bentaleb’s 71%. Dembélé completed 89% of his attacking zone passes, compared to Bentaleb’s 83%.
While Spurs fans shouldn’t get too ahead of themselves with a youth player coming through the ranks, there is a lot to get excited about. But his toughest tests will come up in the next month or two, with big games against Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton will really test his midfield credentials.