Tanguy Ndombele was once again left on the bench as an unused substitute in Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Watford yesterday, potentially spelling the end of his time at the club.
It would be one thing if Ndombele remained on the bench in a match Tottenham had full control over. You don’t expect to see the enigmatic Frenchman enter the fray when Spurs are ahead.
However, the last two matches were situations tailor fitted for Ndombele’s influence off the bench. In desperate need of a wining goal against Southampton and Watford, Ndombele sat idly by, twiddling his thumbs on the bench as teammates Bryan Gil and Giovani Lo Celso got their chance to impact proceedings.
If Antonio Conte doesn’t trust Ndombele to provide an injection of trickery, pace and creativity off the bench when Spurs need it most, when will the gaffer require his services?
In a press conference a few days ago, Conte accelerated speculation about Ndombele’s future at Spurs, saying:
"“There are players that understand before, players that understand very well and then there are other players that need more time or could [find it] difficult to understand the situation.”"
It was an honest assessment of Ndombele’s current status at the club, and another example of Conte’s lack of faith in the capricious Frenchman.
The Frenchman has managed only 80 Premier League minutes in three separate appearances since Antonio Conte arrived on the scene. The lion’s share of those minutes, 64 against Liverpool, were only afforded to him due to a severe personnel shortage in the devastating wake of a Covid-19 tornado.
He came on five minutes from the end of Conte’s first match in charge at Goodison and saw 11 minutes of game time off the bench when Spurs had already wrapped things up against Palace recently.
As far as midfielders go, only Bryan Gil has seen less Premier League action on Spurs roster since Conte took the helm, a seriously worrying theme for Ndombele. And Gil, who is just 20 years old, had a hamstring issue at the start of Conte’s tenure and reportedly had Covid-19 and, even more disconcertingly for Ndombele, was Conte’s preferred option off the bench in the last two contests.
If Ndombele does leave, even if only on loan, it will represent the most Tottenham have ever overpaid for a player, who cost the club almost £65 million. Unfortunately Ndombele might not even have to leave for that ominous statement to ring true.