Last season, Gareth Bale was sold to Real Madrid by Tottenham in return for a world record fee. The Spurs, under the management of the usually clueless Andre Villas-Boas and the usually shrewd Daniel Levy decided that a £100 bill is worth the same as a hundred £1 coins. Well, theoretically they are, but that’s generally not how it works in football as even Liverpool have seen first-hand this season.
It is crucial to replace quality with quality and not quantity as the player(s) brought in must be good enough to not let the squad and starting level standards drop alarmingly. Among the many players the Spurs brought in, the biggest signings were Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela. Both these have failed to justify the £56M they cost combined. Of all the purchases, the ones who have looked the part are Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli. While neither is as good as the Welshman was and nor are they expected to be anytime soon, but they haven’t looked like fishes out of water, which is what you would call the other signings if being kind.
While Eriksen has been a creative hub for the Spurs since joining, it is Chadli whose form has taken a turn for the good under the stewardship of Pochettino. In tandem with the excellent Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, he has been very effective in being a thorn for opposition defences. He has looked threatening whenever he chooses to drift into the ‘second striker’ position. Even under AVB he was played sometimes in a false-nine role but he did not excel there particularly. While most of it was down to the team being poorly set up, a part of the reason also was a lack of support for Chadli.
This season, the key reason for his success has been his knack of getting behind the opposition defence and scoring 1v1s. Scoring at a rate of once every two games is excellent for a wide player, especially one who is not even a guaranteed starter. While Kane has been the flavour of the Lilywhites with his exploits, Chadli’s scoring has gone somewhat under the radar. He has the ability to sense the chance before it materializes, something one often attributes to several great players like Frank Lampard. He knows how and where to position himself so that he can make full use of that opportunity.
His chance creation and key passing stats are also in the healthy zone for a wide forward. He has very often been the key provider for Harry Kane in his goalscoring exploits and his assists number show just why. He may not be an Eden Hazard or a Gareth Bale but he does what the team needs off him, simply put. He can pass, create chances and also contribute to the goals tally. It is often baffling at why he isn’t given due credit, but surely it will come soon.
He isn’t exactly the kind of winger who beats his fullback and cuts in to shoot or cross, like Robben or Schurrle, but he likes to play intricate one-twos around the defence, often splitting it with his runs. He isn’t the best of dribblers, but still manages a respectable 1.3 take ons every 90 minutes. He also contributes healthily to the defensive side of the game, which is key to Pochettino’s style of play, winning more than a tackle each game.
He might just be the pick of the lot the Spurs bought when they sold Bale, but he will end up being underrated for the crucial role that he performs. He brings more to the side than Lamela or Lennon, but often sees himself dropped for either of them. With him, Kane and Eriksen forming a formidable trio in the Spurs’ lineup, teams will have to be on guard and not let the pass slip through, because Chadli is usually lurking around!