There are 14 Tottenham midfield players vying to get a place in Mauricio Pochettino’s team. Spurs acquisition of additional midfield players last summer meant constant rotation and switching of positions in midfield. This made it very difficult for players to develop any understanding of how to play together as a team. The squad is top-heavy with midfielders and some may have to leave this summer.
Sandro: is a great favourite at White Hart Lane but his injury at the start of 2013 has taken its toll and he has never rediscovered the form or consistency that he showed when teamed so effectively with Mousa Dembele in the first six months of Andre Villas-Boas’ time with Spurs. Last year was a difficult time for him and there has been summer transfer talk of a possible move to Italy.
Mousa Dembele: a player who has failed to fulfil the promise of his early months at White Hart Lane. One expects so much more from him but so often he slows down the pace of the game or when going forward gets to the edge of the penalty area and loses possession or makes a poor, sideways pass. Last season was a very poor year for him and he carried similar form into the World Cup,with Belgium eventually losing his place in the team.
Etienne Capoue: one of last summer’s signings, he made an impressive start in the opening games but a lengthy absence through injury ruined his season with few opportunities on his recovery. In pre-season, he has shown a renewed appetite for the game with his commitment in the tackle and his accurate passing from defence. If he maintains that level of performance in the coming weeks he could be an asset to the team but there is speculation that Spurs could be prepared to sell him.
Paulinho: a player with considerable skill but we only saw it occasionally last season. He found it difficult to adjust to the pace and competitiveness of the Premier League but still managed to make a very useful contribution with 8 goals from midfield. Disappointing in the World Cup, he has played football almost non-stop over the past two years. This is a big season for him to see if he can fit into Pochettino’s style of play and adapt to the rigours of the English game.
Just returned to training after the World Cup, Paulinho spoke of the competition for places in the Tottenham midfield. The club website reported Paulinho’s comments,
You have to fight for your place and I’m looking forward to the challenge, but I think the most important thing now is to think about the first game.
Lewis Holtby: like Sandro, a great favourite with the Tottenham supporters. He plays with enthusiasm and commitment and showed up well in midweek European and Cup matches. When given the opportunity in the Premier League he was unable to bring the same consistency to his game and struggled to make a positive impression. Having been on loan last season, there has been interest from other clubs but on current performances in pre-season Holtby will be pushing for inclusion in Pochettino’s starting eleven.
Nabil Bentaleb: twelve months has made a tremendous difference for Bentaleb. Last year he was on the very fringe of the squad but with no expectation of making it into the team. Given his chance by Tim Sherwood, he has grabbed it with both hands and performed well for Algeria at the World Cup. He is now competing for a regular place in central midfield, ahead of some more experience internationals.
Aaron Lennon: had a disappointing season and while he always worked hard for the team, he didn’t provide as much of a threat going forward. The arrival of Pochettino seems to have revived him in preseason.
Andros Townsend: an exciting start to last season ended in disappointment having been disrupted with injury. Little playing time in the second half of the season and a late injury saw him miss out on the England squad. He trained through the summer to recover from surgery and be prepared for the new season. He needs to get the right balance between beating his man, crossing and shooting. With so many midfield players, he is a player about whom there has been transfer speculation.
Erik Lamela: last season was a complete waste for him. Few opportunities and then struck by injury, he is hoping for a fresh start this season. A player with immense talent, he has to show he can cope with the pressure and intensity of the Premier League on a consistent basis. The hope is that Pochettino will be able to get the best out of this exciting young player.
Christian Eriksen: the one player from last summer’s signings who displayed his true form and skill at White Hart Lane. The Danish international is the player Pochettino will want to build his team around.
Nacer Chadli: a player who had limited opportunity last season. He never had a regular place in the team and was played in arrange of positions. Another player where uncertainty surrounds his future at Tottenham.
Ryan Mason: injury has restricted his development during his many loan periods away from Spurs. Played in a defensive central midfield role in pre-season he was very effective and may get the opportunity in Europa League games to show whether he can produce his form consistently.
Tom Carroll: the Europa League matches provided him with his chance to show what he could do in 2011 but has had few opportunities since. On loan last season at Queen’s Park Rangers, this will be an important season for him if he is going to have more opportunities at Tottenham.
Cristian Ceballos: out on loan, he has had few opportunities to show whether he can make it at Spurs. He looked a very exciting player in pre-season but at 21 years of age time is running out for him to make a breakthrough with Spurs.
11 To Go!
Mauricio Pochettino spoke of the need for a smaller squad at Tottenham and this is one area where he will be looking to reduce the numbers in the squad, especially if he is able to complete the transfer of Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton.
The article in the Telegraph named 11 players who Spurs would be prepared to sell, and 6 of those were midfield players – Lennon, Townsend, Capoue, Chadli, Sandro and Dembele. The competition for a place in the Tottenham midfield is tough.
The other 5 are: Michael Dawson, Vlad Chiriches, Roberto Soldado, Kyle Naughton and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
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