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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Tottenham Hotspur's Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
Tottenham Hotspur’s Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Højbjerg’s Passing Fancy

The good new is Højbjerg is a far better passer than he has ever shown to be prior in his career with Tottenham. Prior to this season, the best passing season in his career was only 82.9 % on some 1123 passes for Southampton in 2017-18 according to For Tottenham this season, Højbjerg is second on the team in completion percentage at 89.9% having attempted more than 50% of that 1123 with 670 attempts.

Moussa Sissoko is currently the percentage completion leader for Spurs thus far on the season at 90.5%. However, Sissoko has made far fewer passes than Højbjerg has. Pierre has completed more than twice as many passes as Sissoko has attempted, so it is hard to say Højbjerg has not been the best. If you dig deeper into these numbers Højbjerg is even more impressive in comparison to the rest of the team, particularly in advancing the football.

Højbjerg, has completed more than 90% of both his short and medium length passes, which includes anything under 30 yards. These are the kind of passes you expect most quality midfielders to make and not surprisingly Højbjerg leads the team in both attempts and completions, but not percentages here.

However, Højbjerg makes an even greater contribution with his long passing game. Only Eric Dier has attempted (117) and completed (90) more long passes than Højbjerg and completes them at an impressive 76% clip.  In comparison Højbjerg has completed 89 long balls on just 111 attempts for an impressive 80.2%. That percentage is second on the team to Dele Alli. However, Dele has only attempted 7 such passes completing six for his impressive percentage of 86%. Again, Højbjerg is our clubhouse leader.

All this add up to a ton of forward movement for Tottenham. Yes, Højbjerg goes backwards and side-to-side sometimes, but he far outpaces everyone on the team in both progressive distance (yards forward) and progressive passes (10+ Yards into attacking third).  Højbjerg pushes the ball forward so much, he has passed the ball further yards forward this season than Hugo Lloris – who routinely gets some 60+ yards on his passes from goal. Bottom line, Højbjerg is a much better passer than he has shown in the past and those passes make Tottenham tick. Of course, he is good at defense too.

Højbjerg the Defensive Fulcrum for Tottenham

HotspurHQ have covered how the midfielders are deployed, so we will try not to rehash that here. However, it is important to understand that beyond the focal point of the passing game, Højbjerg, is the most productive player defensively too and it starts with being an excellent ball winner.

Winning the ball and possession back was one of the main reasons Tottenham Hotspur signed Pierre Højbjerg and he has not disappointed thus far. Not surprisingly, Højbjerg is first on the team in combined tackles and interceptions with 30 in his 10 appearances. That total is more than double second place Matt Doherty and Harry Winks who each have 14 tackles + interceptions.

What is special about Højbjerg is that while Winks and Doherty each have 13 tackles and one interception; Højbjerg has 23 tackles – first on the team by 10 over the duo – and 7 interceptions. The 7 interceptions are second only to Sissoko who has 9, but fewer tackles. Højbjerg is that rare player who can anticipate the pass and intercept just as well as he can bring the tackle.

Of course, tackles and interceptions are not everything defensively, particularly when pressure is often the name of the game. From a pressure perspective only Heung-Min Son has applied more pressure on opponents and of course no one has more successfully helped Spurs get the ball back from a pressure situation with 39 successful pressures in 129 attempts than Højbjerg. Son has 33 wins in 136 attempts and then comes Kane with 28 and 94. Once again Højbjerg helps set the pace.  All this defensive effort leads to what Spurs signed Højbjerg for which is ball recovery. Højbjerg has recovered loose balls for Tottenham 106 times already this season, 33 more times than second place Davinson Sanchez.

Just as Højbjerg is a magnet for the gall offensively in the passing game, he is a magnet for the ball defensively. It is that defensive magnetism that often leads to the offensive chances and progressive passes with the opposition off balance. The more Højbjerg can continue to do the more Spurs will continue to succeed. All of that is rather good for a stopper and makes Højbjerg as important to Tottenham as talisman Harry Kane.