It has been a turbulent 12 months for Tanguy Ndombele following an encouraging start in Tottenham shirt that saw him score on his debut. Despite his obvious talent, there have been questions about his attitude and mentality. These have led to some explosive comments from Jose Mourinho and several reports of a breakdown in the relationship between the pair. However, he has slowly worked his way into the starting eleven with back-to-back starts in the Premier League.
The Frenchman was withdrawn early against Manchester United and West Ham United, but that may be beneficial for his reputation and his place in the team. He wasn’t on the pitch when Tottenham collapsed at the weekend. It may be too simplistic to suggest that his presence would have helped Spurs see the game out, but Mourinho will certainly think twice before taking him off in the future.
On Sunday, he had eight ball recoveries and won both of his attempted tackles. Ndombele is excellent at anticipating the game and taking up the correct positions to win the ball back as quickly as possible. He is much more mobile than other central midfield options in the squad and is capable of playing a number of midfield roles. Against West Ham, he started in a more advanced position, but he covered a lot of ground to contribute in both halves of the pitch.
In possession, he completed both of his attempted dribbles and 85% of his passes. It was a very good performance, as he finally starts to look at home in the Tottenham team. The decision to replace him with Harry Winks may have been a precautionary measure as he continues to build up his fitness. However, Spurs lost some of the control in the midfield area following the change.
The collapse will sting for Mourinho, but it will clarify his thinking on Ndombele. The Frenchman should now be a lock in the midfield, due to his quality in and out of possession. Previous issues seem to be in the past and the 23-year-old looks ready to fill the Mousa Dembele-shaped hole in the midfield that has existed at Tottenham for the last 18 months.
Despite the disappointment of the weekend, Tottenham are starting to gain an identity under Jose Mourinho. It has taken time for Spurs to find a settled team and display a consistency in performance level. The recent performances against Chelsea, Manchester United and the first half at the weekend showed an explosiveness in attack that should carry the club to a good season.
One of the most impressive parts of both performances has been the midfield, with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Ndombele dominant in those areas. The next challenge for Mourinho is to find the right player to become the third part. Moussa Sissoko is a solid player, but he won’t influence matches for Tottenham. It will be exciting to see Giovani Lo Celso come back into the team, which should allow Ndombele to move a little bit deeper. If this happens, it should lead to Spurs having a greater control of those central areas.
Now, it is clear that Ndombele has to be one of the first names on the team sheet for Tottenham. The performance following his departure on Sunday only emphasises that further, but it has been his contributions on the pitch that have allowed him to stand out.
Stats taken from Whoscored and Stats Zone