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Talking Tactics

Ndombele can bring balance to Spurs midfield

Adrian Clarke 21 Jul 2019
Tomy Jimenez and Tungay Ndombele, Tottenham Hotspur

Adrian Clarke says new signing can protect his side's defence while easing the creative burden on Eriksen

Adrian Clarke looks at key areas where each Premier League club can improve ahead of the 2019/20 season.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs lost 13 of their 38 Premier League matches last season en route to a fourth-place finish so, first and foremost, they must become harder to beat.

Instead of settling on a regular central defensive partnership in 2018/19, Mauricio Pochettino frequently changed his selections, and alternated between a back three and a back four.

This lack of continuity may have contributed to a sense of vulnerability which their opponents sometimes capitalised on.

Spurs' goalkeepers were considerably busier than their counterparts at last season's top-four clubs. 

Saves made at top four clubs 2018/19
Club Saves
Spurs 121
Chelsea 85
Liverpool 76
Man City 58

Spurs also lacked a dominant central midfielder to shield the defence and provide a solid base.

Indeed, this was probably their weakest area last season.

Mousa Dembele's January departure, combined with injuries to Harry Winks, Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier, meant the north Londoners were often stretched in the middle of the pitch.

The lack of a controlling presence in this area was problematic both in and out of possession.

Creatively, meanwhile, too much of a burden was placed on Christian Eriksen's shoulders.

The Dane played in a deeper role than usual yet remained far and away their most inventive central midfielder.

Spurs' central midfielders 2018/19
Player Assists Key passes Shots on target Goals
Eriksen 12 73 30 8
Alli 3 27 19 5
Sissoko 3 25 3 0
Dier 0 8 3 3
Winks 0 7 2 0
Wanyama 0 2 2 1

Perhaps surprisingly, Spurs created 90 fewer chances from open play than their London rivals Chelsea in 2018/19.

Ranked fifth in the Premier League in this category, with 299, they need to increase the frequency and quality of service to their forwards.

Pochettino will certainly be demanding better contributions from his midfielders in the final third this season.

Most chances created from open play
2018/19 Total PL ranking
Christian Eriksen 44 14
Kieran Trippier 30 37
Harry Kane 26 52=
Lucas Moura 26 52=
Dele Alli 24 66=
Son Heung-min 24 66=

The arrival of gifted France international Tanguy Ndombele this summer seems to be just the tonic Spurs need.

The 22-year-old (pictured above with Spurs goalkeeping coach Toni Jimenez this weekend), can perform either as a defensive midfielder or in a box-to-box role.

His all-round quality should provide balance in the middle of the pitch.

He can help to protect the rearguard and also improve the way Spurs move the ball between the lines.

His seven assists in 31 league starts for Lyon last season also reflect a player capable of creating goalscoring opportunities.

Indeed earlier today he delivered a fine through-ball for Lucas to score in Spurs' 3-2 win over Juventus, moments after coming on for his debut. 

That said, a glance at the above stats regarding Spurs' creativity in 2018/19 suggests Ndombele alone cannot solve the problem.

The north Londoners only had two players in the Premier League's top 50 for chances created in open play, and one of them, Kieran Trippier, has just departed.

I wouldn't be surprised, therefore, if they recruit another creative midfielder before the transfer window closes on 8 August.

See: Adrian Clarke on how each club can improve

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