Nacer Chadli arrived at Tottenham in the summer as the cheapest of Spurs’ summer signings, having paid FC Twente £7m for the Belgian international winger. As the season draws to a close what are Spurs to do with him?
Nacer Chadli was signed by Tottenham as a left winger who played for Belgium, and linked well playing in front of his new club colleague Jan Vertonghen. Over time it transpires that Chadli can play in a number of positions across midfield and his versatility has been part of the problem at White Hart Lane. No-one seems sure about his best position or how to make the best use of him. He has been tried in a number of positions without being given the time or opportunity to settle into any of them.
While playing on the left wing, Chadli was never going to be a direct replacement for the departing Gareth Bale but he had demonstrated that he had an eye for goal with 25 goals in 84 league games in Holland and his goals in the Champions League included 2 in the two games against Tottenham in 2010.
At White Hart Lane
The season started well for Chadli, making his debut in the opening game at Crystal Palace and being in Andre Villas-Boas’ starting line-up for the Premier League games. Injury kept him out for a number of games in September but when he returned to fitness Andros Townsend had claimed a place in the team with his early season ‘purple-patch’ for Spurs and at international level. In the Cup game at Villa Chadli scored his first goal for the club as a substitute towards the end of the month
Over the next few months, with Aaron Lennon and Townsend claiming the two wing positions, in a constantly changing team under two different managers, the Belgian international wasn’t able to get a regular place in the league team and was consigned to appearances in the mid-week Cup team. He became frustrated, concerned that his lack of football would hinder his World Cup chances with Belgium. He scored his first European goal against Anzhi in Russia but his first league goal didn’t come until the 4 – 0 win at Newcastle in mid-February, a beautiful curled shot from the edge of the area.
During that time, Chadli illustrated in occasional flashes, that there is a talented footballer in there but has had limited opportunity to show it. In different positions he has demonstrated his ability. He has mostly played on the left and initially he linked up well with Danny Rose but then both were out with injury although Chadli did reprise his international role linking with Vertonghen to good effect. At Southampton he came on as a substitute playing on the right and delivered telling crosses from which Roberto Soldado should have added to his meagre goal tally. With his height and strength he has proved a threat at corners and set-pieces, just failing to get among the scorers from good positions.
Recalled to the starting line-up against Arsenal he should have become an instant hero with an equalising goal early in the second half but delayed his shot giving the defenders time to recover. He came in for considerable criticism for that miss but on Thursday in Lisbon he demonstrated his ability to play right across the midfield. He played centrally but drifted to the left and right. He scored Spurs first goal when coming in from the left of centre but was in the middle for the second, hooking the chance into the roof of the net and in those final frenetic minutes, with a cross from the right set up the header for Harry Kane.
After scoring the two goals against Benfica, fans have been prepared to acknowledge that Chadli is a better player than they had given him credit for or that he has yet managed to display in a Spurs shirt. They are expecting him to be in the starting eleven at home to Southampton on Sunday.
One shining light tonight was Nacer Chadli!!…. He just keeps getting better and better!!
— Luke Bird (@Luke_Bird) March 20, 2014
Prior to the Benfica game Nacer Chadli called for more time to show what he could do at Tottenham. His display in Lisbon certainly backed up the claims that he made in The Telegraph article,
I have not shown all what I can do at Tottenham. I can do a lot more. I think I just have to adapt as much as possible. I think I can do it better. Tottenham bought a lot of players this summer so it was a bit different for everybody to play in the new league. It was not so easy because it’s very different, a different way to play. But with time I think we will adapt to the league. The more we play together, the better we’ll be.
As Chadli said, it’s taking time for all the players to adapt to a new club in a different league and with 7 players coming into the club it created additional difficulties. His versatility has also been a problem in that his position and role has changed constantly throughout the season and even during a game which hasn’t allowed him to develop an understanding with the players around him.
Tim Sherwood needs to decide on how to make best use of Chadli and give him a run in the team during the final games of the season to allow him to demonstrate that he can cope in the Premier League. The same could also be said for most of the 7 summer signings.
Over to you, Tim!