Ndombele Showed New Dimension for Tottenham Hotspur Thursday

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Tottenham Hotspur's Tanguy Ndombele (Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Tottenham Hotspur's Tanguy Ndombele (Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images) /

Tanguy Ndombele played as one of the two holding players instead of the attacking midfielder Thursday for Tottenham, this could be a game changer for Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur were very imbalanced in the midfield last season and it often led to the team being overrun by more talented sides. Even this season it seems there are more players for the one attacking #10 role than there are for the two holding roles in José Mourinho’s preferred 4-2-3-1 line-up. After Thursday night, it is clear Tanguy Ndombele can play a significant role for Tottenham whether he is the creative attacker or playing deep as he was against Ludogorets. Here we look at how Ndombele playing deep can change the team.

Balancing the Tottenham Midfield

Although Tottenham traditionally play with two holding or deep lying midfielders under José Mourinho, it is not a position of great depth. Tottenham have a lot of midfielders overall, but most of them are attacking midfielders not defensive midfielders. Not including the players who predominantly play on the wing, Tottenham have seven midfielders – Harry Winks, Erik Lamela, Moussa Sissoko, Giovani Lo Celso, Pierre Højbjerg, Dele Alli, and Tanguy Ndombele.

Of the seven players, four are more traditionally attacking players – Dele, Lo Celso, Lamela, and Ndombele. The other three Winks, Sissoko, and Højbjerg are traditionally looked at as box-to-box or more defensive midfield players. While seven players for three positions sounds good when you realize it is three for two and four the other some imbalance still exists.

What makes this more difficult is that the holding midfield role under José Mourinho is not just a traditional protect the back-line roll. Rather the deep midfield is an all-encompassing role that goes from fullback through attacking midfielder and everything in-between. It takes a player with a certain commitment to the game and technical skillset to succeed in the role as designed.

At Tottenham, all three holding players work for different reasons, Sissoko is incredibly athletic and works hard across the pitch governing with effort. Harry Winks is your deep lying playmaker who looks to get on the ball and move it around the pitch with passes. Then you have Pierre Højbjerg, who is the most traditional defensive midfielder of the bunch, who can serve equally adeptly as a stopper as he can a passer. That said, Højbjerg calling card is his defense.

Tanguy Brings it All

Tanguy Ndombele brings a little bit of all three players currently holding down the defensive midfield into the role. Ndombele is an excellent passer and is someone who agitates opposing defenses while calming the Tottenham offense when he has the ball at his feet. Additionally, as was demonstrated against Ludogorets, Ndombele can play an aggressive, defensive role. His tackles and ability to win back possession and then turn it into attack is extremely dangerous to the opposition.

Finally, we saw in the Ludogorets game and frankly throughout the season, that Tanguy Ndombele is a much better athlete than you might think he is by looking at him. Ndombele is deceptively fast and knows how to use his frame well to get his body between the opposition and the ball. In other words, Ndombele combines some of the best of all three – Winks, Sissoko, and Højbjerg – into one player, which can be used to further balance the Tottenham midfield equation.

How Tanguy Changes Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur need another player who can play in the back and rotate with the three already featuring there. While Tanguy Ndombele is not about to lose his spot in the #10 hole, having the option to play him deeper opens a lot of possibilities. Whether it is Dele – like against Ludogorets – or Lo Celso, or Lamela, or any of the other attacking, creative player being on the pitch WITH Ndombele just makes Spurs that much more dangerous.

Things have worked very well for Tottenham with Sissoko in the deepest role and Højbjerg playing the link, but it would probably be even better with Højbjerg deepest and Ndombele connecting the group. This is not to suggest that Tottenham need too or even should change, rather, playing with Ndombele deep is now just a more legitimate option. The more options the squad can provide to José Mourinho the more he can do with those options. Hopefully, this is one that does not stay put away too long.