Sunday, 5 February 2017
Mousa Dembele has transformed at Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino. He arrived from Fulham in 2012 when we triggered a £15 million release clause in his Fulham contract.
He had an excellent first season, but frustratingly never kicked on to become the player he could be. He seemed content to continue at the level he was and there was talk that every little twinge and he wanted to rest.
Coach after coach felt he had the ability to be a real star and that he could be good enough to play for arguably the number one team in the world Real Madrid, if he worked at his game. To do that you have to have the right mindset, you must want to improve every day. It isn't something that is automatic for any footballer, they have to have the motivation to do so.
The answer Mauricio Pochettino came up with was to not play him. He sat him on the bench for a season, letting him know he wasn't a first choice selection and if he wanted to remain at the club, he'd have to work at his game.
Dembele spoke to the media at the end of the season and said his non-selection was down to him, it was his responsibility. I wrote at the time these were encouraging words, if he was going to follow through with them. He has.
Now we see a Mousa Dembele who wins the ball back quickly with his strength. He puts his body across players and then the foot drags the ball away. He did it time and time again against Middlesbrough on Saturday.
The aspect that really pleased me though and that shown he is working on his game to improve it, was his passing. So often we have seen him roll the ball and the recipient stands waiting for it to arrive. Yesterday he was pinging the ball at greater speed to both wings.
We were working the Middlesbrough defence over to the right, playing the ball central to Dembele who was then playing a diagonal ball out to Son Heung-min in plenty of space to run at his man. He played it at pace so Son had time to attack his man without additional defensive cover coming across.
When he plays balls at pace he stops looking lazy. The midfield dictate the tempo, if he is pinging it about, we play quicker, we look dangerous and stretch other teams. It shows he is adding to his game and has totally bought into what Pochettino wants and the result is he has stepped him game up a level.
Any Premier League club would love to have him in their side, he is now a top top player.
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