After a lengthy suspension, Mousa Dembele is finally available for selection in the Premier League for Tottenham. He has been hugely missed in the centre of the park after emerging as one of the side’s best players over the last 12 months. The Belgian has undergone an unlikely resurgence at White Hart Lane after once being seen as surplus to requirements. His improvement under Mauricio Pochettino has been huge and he provides qualities to the central midfield that both Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier lack. Although he will be short of match fitness to begin with, his return is huge for Spurs and they can now attack the season with their full strength eleven.
Pochettino has tried to add depth to his central midfield over the summer, as his side were over-reliant on Mousa Dembele last season. Ryan Mason and Tom Carroll were expected to provide cover for the Belgian, but neither are good enough to play for a top four side. The club have chosen to bring in Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko, which will allow Dembele to be rested throughout the season. For the first four league matches, they have picked up eight points, which shows that they can pick up points without their Belgian midfielder, but there is no doubting that they are better with him in the starting eleven.
During the start to their league campaign, they have missed Dembele in the transition phase, as neither Dier nor Wanyama excel in that part of the game. Their passing in more limited than Dembele’s, while they can’t carry the ball into the attacking half effectively either. Last season, the Belgian managed to have 90% passing accuracy and averaged 2.9 dribbles per game. These figures highlight how important he is to the Spurs midfield, as he is reliable in possession and can bring the ball forward. The latter allows the side to break quickly, giving the attacking players the best opportunity to take advantage of the space in the opposition half.
In terms of breaking up the play, the 29-year-old is very good, making him the complete midfielder. During the 2015/16 campaign, he averaged 3.6 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per game, which is a great contribution. As opposed to the other midfielders in the squad, Dembele offers an extra dimension and the fact that they lost their final two league matches last season without him isn’t surprising. They conceded seven goals in those two games and looked a shadow of the team that was challenging Leicester City for the title. His influence was sometimes overlooked, but Tottenham supporters realise his value and they will be delighted that he is now back.
If his passing, dribbling and ball retrieval skills weren’t enough, the former Fulham midfielder can chip in with a few goals. He scored three league goals during the last league campaign, emphasising that he can contribute in the final third when required. He started his career as a striker with AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie and he hasn’t lost that goal-scoring instinct. Although he is better suited to his current midfield role, he is still capable of scoring crucial goals and that is a great attribute to have.
Tottenham have had a good start to the season, remaining unbeaten in the league, despite not playing at their best. The return of Mousa Dembele will be a huge boost for the players and the supporters, as he is a unique midfielder who can excel in every part of the game. Spurs are no longer as reliant on the Belgian and the competition could be a good thing for him, as it will prevent complacency. His return needs to be managed correctly and if it is, Tottenham could become the force they were for the majority of last season.