Talking Tactics

New signings: Hojbjerg can tighten up Spurs' midfield

By Adrian Clarke 20 Aug 2020
Pierre Emile Hojbjerg TOT

Adrian Clarke says former Southampton star offers the qualities Jose Mourinho was missing in front of his defence last season

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Adrian Clarke assesses players who have changed clubs this summer and can make an impact in 2020/21.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (TOT)

The signing of midfielder Hojbjerg can help make Tottenham Hotspur far more solid without the ball than they were last season.

In 2019/20, Spurs' goalkeepers had to make 140 saves, a total only exceeded by Arsenal's 147. 

Hojbjerg’s ability to break up play should bring about an instant improvement.

The 25-year-old has outstanding positional sense in the middle third of the pitch.

This trait helped Hojbjerg recover possession for Southampton 10.64 times per 90 minutes in 2019/20, more than any other Premier League midfielder.

With his discipline, reading of the game and controlled aggression, the Denmark international will add plenty of bite to Spurs' midfield and give the defence better protection.

Most ball recoveries 2019/20
Midfielder Total/90
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg  10.64
Fred 9.75
Jorginho 9.29
Wilfred Ndidi 9.12
Jefferson Lerma 8.97

Spurs missed the influence of a ball-winning specialist during 2019/20.

Harry Winks is their chief distributor; Moussa Sissoko offers great power and athleticism; Tanguy Ndombele is a fine ball carrier; Eric Dier is now preferred as a central defender.

Hojbjerg offers Mourinho something different and valuable.

Hojbjerg's passing stats
Passes 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20
% Forward passes 25.4 30.3 36.8 
% Pass accuracy 85.1 82.9 78.1 
Passes/90 59.7 58.4 59.7 

Over the course of the last three seasons, Hojbjerg's distribution has changed.

At Southampton, Ralph Hasenhuttl encouraged him to make more progressive forward passes.

Across 2019/20, an impressive 36.8 per cent of his passes went in a vertical direction, a rise of 11.4 per cent from 2017/18.

Now making riskier passes, his accuracy levels have understandably dropped, but this new proactive habit is likely to have appealed to Mourinho.

If Hojbjerg can come into his side and move the ball on early and efficiently to Spurs' attackers, it will be a big plus for the head coach. 

Hojbjerg's first day at Spurs

While he is primarily a holding player, Hojbjerg also likes to get forward when opportunities arise.

Only three Saints players - Danny Ings, Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse - attempted more shots than him last season, with 28 of his 36 efforts coming from outside the box.

He is a sensible signing and should quickly establish himself as a regular in Spurs' starting XI.

Also in this series

Part 1: World-class Ziyech can do the spectacular
Part 2: Lallana offers Brighton a cutting edge
Part 4: Salisu's physicality well-suited to Premier League
Part 5: Ake will balance out Man City defence
Part 6: Thiago Silva well suited to Lampard's style
Part 7: Willian will add creative flair to Arsenal
Part 8: Eze can make Palace an attacking force
Part 9: Intelligent Rodrigo a natural fit for Leeds

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