This current Tottenham Hotspur side isn’t one that gives a fan the vibes of their team of the 2009-10 season, does it? The presence of the likes of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon gave Harry Redknapp’s team a wholly different look than the one that Mauricio Pochettino has, as things stand. The likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen may not be as recognisable faces of the game as Bale or Modric, but that is exactly what separates Pochettino’s side from that of Harry’s. They may not be superstars of a sizeable level, but it’s the collective that matters more than the whole.
Spurs are currently second in the league, with a proper shout of their own for the title, behind Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. They’ve got the best defensive record in the Premier League right now, much like last season and have won six games on the trot following their defeat at Old Trafford to Manchester United in early December. And the recent wins over West Brom, Watford, Chelsea and Southampton offers us a peek into what the men from North London are capable of and also prove that they are genuine title-contenders.
And as the ‘Spurs go marching on’, the contributions of one man goes unnoticed in every single game. He may not be the glorified superstar and may not have joined for a massive fee from a big club, but his influence on the side has been gargantuan. And it’s quite undoubted that Spurs would not have been as good as they are, if not for Victor Wanyama.
The 25-year-old is not your typical superstar, midfield engine who is a master of all trades and a master on none. His appearance isn’t the most striking or attractive, with the Kenyan having little or no regard for how he looks and how others perceive him to be. He has never been an outspoken personality. Despite that, conviction is very clear in whatever Wanyama says. And his no-nonsense approach to the game that he loves makes him who he is today.
Not one with a rich background, Wanyama has been referred to as being “an animal” by Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino and his performances on the pitch seem to reflect that. Having arrived from Southampton for a mere £11m fee, Wanyama’s capture went quite under-the-radar for Spurs, who had evidently lacked the physicality and depth in the midfield during the fag end of the 2015-16 season. The suspension of Dele Alli and that of Moussa Dembele late in the season had played a vital role in crippling Spurs’ hopes of finishing second, if not their aspirations of winning the title. There was a need to strengthen the heart of the park with players who can fill in for the likes of Eric Dier and Dembele, but Wanyama has done well more than that.
Having played every game for Spurs this season, Wanyama has not shown signs of stopping in a single one of them. His bulging muscles and body mass is enough to scare the opposition off, but the Kenyan isn’t just a physical specimen to be reckoned with. He has won 2.6 tackles per game for the men in white this season, apart from making 1.3 interceptions per game. His presence on the pitch allows the back four a shield that they can depend on. Being a Mr. Reliable on the pitch and sitting in front of the defence to often assume the form of being the fifth defender is something Wanyama has done throughout his career, be it at Celtic or Southampton.
The transition from a back-three to a back-four is made easy by Wanyama’s dependable presence on the pitch. He sits in the space between the two centre-halves, be it any two of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen on Eric Dier, allowing the two marauding full-backs in Kyle Walker and Danny Rose to fly forward and do what they have been doing impeccably over the past two seasons now. After Dier had assumed a similar role this season, many had expected the England international to keep his place, but injuries to Alderweireld have allowed Wanyama to don the role and force Dier to play in the back four. And now, it does seem as if the Kenyan has made that role his very own.
The manner in which Wanyama joins the dots between the defence and the attacking players is just as effective. His passing percentage of 88 percent is the third highest in the Tottenham side and it’s his near-perfect ball circulation to the likes of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane. He has created more chances than Dier did throughout last season (21 to 18), which clearly goes to show how effective the former Celtic man has proved out to be. And it’s his mobility and work-rate makes him a more efficient outlet in that position, when compared to Dier.
Probably one of the signings of the season, Wanyama’s contributions in both defence and attack are almost indispensable for Pochettino’s emerging side. He, much like Spurs themselves, has gone about his business discreetly and in a really no-nonsense fashion. He and Spurs may not seem to be the best and it’s their approach to their job that makes them look like that, quite often. And without a shadow of doubt, Victor Wanyama is one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe right now.