Pierre Hojbjerg seems to be one of Tottenham Hotspur’s main transfer targets
Pierre Emile Hojbjerg seems to be one of the early main targets of Tottenham Hotspur as the ‘summer’ transfer market begins to heat up as the season draws to a close. Hojbjerg brings something different to the Spurs than they currently have in their side but does not come without his downside as well. So, what does Hojbjerg bring exactly and how does it complement or not the existing defensive side of the Tottenham midfield.
Hojbjerg Tackling as a Calling Card
If there is something that Pierre Hojbjerg does better than most footballers, it is tackling the ball. Not only does he like to do it he is highly effective at it. IN the past two seasons Hojbjerg as attempted some 170 tackles winning 121 of them – an outstanding 71%-win rate. Those totals of 170 attempted tackles and 121 successful tackles are more than Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks – the defensive midfield double-pivot employed by Tottenham most of the last two seasons – combined.
Sissoko and Winks combined for 162 attempted tackles – nearly as many – but were only successful on 107 of them, a 66% success rate. Combined Winks and Sissoko had more tackles in the defensive third of the pitch, 90 to Hojbjerg’s 70, but Pierre has 21 more tackles in the middle third of the pitch 86 to 65 and 11 more tackles in the attacking third of the pitch, 17 to 6. I need not remind folks of what successful tackles in the attacking third typically lead too, goals.
While Hojbjerg’s tendency to lay his boot in far outpaces that of Sissoko and Winks, it maybe is not fair to compare them in this way as they are such different players. In the 2016-17 season, Mousa Dembele had 55 tackles won and Victor Wanyama had 64, so Hojbjerg’s ability to win the ball with the tackle is in extremely good company. And for those Nemanja Matic folks, the Serb had 50 tackles won in his 2017-18 campaign with Manchester United under Jose Mourinho. The bottom line is Hojbjerg can bring some real steel to the Spurs side that is currently lacking.
PEH No Passing Fancy
The area where Hojbjerg is not as convincing as the other midfielders mentioned in comparison is with his passing. Hojbjerg on his career is only an 80% accurate passer.
For someone that has attempted more than 1400 passes each of the last two seasons, I am not convinced this is up to Spurs standard.
Moussa Sissoko is often criticized for his passing with Spurs, but Sissoko’s career completion percentage is over 85%, a full 5 percentage points higher than Hojbjerg’s.
Staying on the Sissoko comparison, Moussa completes a higher percentage of short (less than 5 yards), medium (5-25 yards), AND long (25+ yards) passes than does the Danish enforcer. In the last two seasons, Sissoko has completed more than 86% of his passes, way more accurate than Hojbjerg has ever been.
In fact of all the midfielders I’ve mentioned, Matic, Wanyama, Sissoko, Winks, and Hojbjerg – Sissoko and Hojbjerg are the two least accurate passers of the group – with Wanyama and Matic both completing nearly 88% of their passes in 17-18 and Winks has an over 90% career completion percentage. All told Hojbjerg just is not the most accurate passer, that said, he can put an important pass on.
Over the last two seasons despite all the accuracy in passing Hojbjerg has as many assists as Winks and Sissoko combined – four. So, while maybe Pierre is not as consistently accurate, he is known for playing some more incisive passes that lead to big plays for his side. Not to mention the fact that Hojbjerg carries a large burden at Southampton as both a destroyer and a playmaker. At Spurs Hojbjerg would first focus on defense and any offensive additions would be a plus. In other words, there is room for improvement with Hojbjerg and the ball at his feet.
Bottom Line on Hojbjerg
Pierre Hojbjerg is your classic marauding defensive midfield, who would just as soon tackle the ball from you as intercept a pass. In terms of position on the pitch, Hojbjerg would give Spurs something they have not had since Victor Wanyama, one player who could man the defensive pivot and strike fear into the opposition.
While Winks has done the job from time to time as a single pivot his game is more about guile, pluck, and skill something Spurs have plenty of in the attacking half. Whereas Hojbjerg brings some steel and defensive resolve, something Spurs can use some of. Pierre Hojbjerg would bring something different to Spurs than what they have now and give Mourinho even more options for adapting tactics from game to game as a fringe starter and solid squad player. For $25 million it might be worth it.