Tottenham Midfielder Pierre Højbjerg More than a Ball Winner

Tottenham Hotspur's Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur's Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg of Tottenham
ANTWERPEN, BELGIUM – OCTOBER 29: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg of Tottenham. (Photo by Vincent Van Doornick/Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images) /

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was brought to Tottenham Hotspur this summer to provide defensive cover for the backline and win the ball, he has done so much more.

When Tottenham Hotspur made Pierre-Emile Højbjerg the first signing of their summer, it did not raise a lot of eyebrows, as the Dane seemed to simply fill a need at defensive midfield for Spurs. Nor did the move win a lot of plaudits, as Pierre Højbjerg was seen as a stopper and not much more. Known for his ability to win the ball back and protect the defense, the move made little splash.

Tottenham Hotspur have a couple global superstars – Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane – and a third – Jose Mourinho – if you include the staff. Spurs also have some incredibly talented players with amazing skills and ability in Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, Gareth Bale, and Erik Lamela, among others. Tottenham even have a World Cup winning captain in team captain Hugo Lloris. Regardless, the heartbeat of this team is Pierre Højbjerg.

Now several months into the season, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has been a lot more than advertised. So much more that despite the brilliance of Harry Kane the contributions of Pierre Højbjerg maybe more critical to the overall success of Tottenham than the goals and assists of their talisman. Afterall someone must protect the defense and distribute the ball and Højbjerg does both.

What we have seen through the first months of the season is a complete box-to-box midfielder. A box-to-box midfielder who happens to be exceptionally good at defense, and apparently a whole lot more. Whether it is passing, or touches, or pressures or tackles, Højbjerg is main cog in the Tottenham engine.

Højbjerg Demands the Ball

To say Pierre-Emile Højbjerg demands the ball may be an understatement. In fact, from most statistical perspectives Højbjerg has dominated possession of the ball. Through ten appearances in all competitions (note Europa League qualifying was NOT in the data set from Højbjerg has amassed 741 touches, far and away the most on the team. Currently Matt Doherty is second on the team with 456 touches, at 285 more touches, Højbjerg has 62.5% more touches on the season than Doherty, incredible.

There are three reasons for all these touches. First, is the minutes played, at some 764 minutes in 10 appearances, second only to Hugo Lloris, Højbjerg gets lots of opportunities to get the ball. Second, is Højbjerg is a terrific target man. Whether going wide to split the center-half and fullback, between the center-halves, or combining with the #10 Højbjerg is a target.

Højbjerg has been targeted on 567 passes already this season. Son is second on the team at just 364. Third, are the defensive plays, which create new possession which we will talk more about later. Bottom line whether it is Højbjerg finding the ball or the ball finding him, he has it a LOT. What is key here, is Højbjerg seems to know what to do with the ball when he gets it.