Victor Wanyama has had a frustrating season to date. The Kenyan international has developed significantly since moving to Tottenham, but a serious knee injury led to him missing the majority of the first half of the season. The midfielder told the Daily Mail that it was the lowest point of his career:
“This has been a dark time for me. When Tottenham played Real Madrid at Wembley and I had to watch… I wanted to play so badly, it was probably the lowest point of my career.”
It can be difficult to motivate yourself as a player when injured, especially when your team-mates are doing excellently in the Champions League. Wanyama would have been in the stands watching as Spurs beat Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid to top their group.
The road to recovery has been a long one and, at the time of writing, he is still on the fringes of the first-team as he steps up his recovery. Wanyama has played 11 times in the Premier League, but only three of those have been as a starter. Mauricio Pochettino is known for being careful with players returning from injury and the gradual easing in of the Kenyan shows that.
However, his performance against Bournemouth was his best since his return and it indicated that he is ready for more starts in the near future. He dominated the middle of the park with his power and athleticism, as shown by his six successful tackles during the match. Further to this, he made two interceptions and proved why he is considered one of the best ball-winning midfielders in the league when fully-fit.
Wanyama is more than a pure ball-winner though, as he has proven himself an asset in transition. Tottenham rely on their central midfielders to carry the ball forward into the attacking half after winning the ball as it sets up their attack nicely and allows them to stretch the opposition defence. On Sunday, he completed three dribbles and showed good decision making on the ball.
Before joining Tottenham, it was thought that Wanyama was poor in possession, but he has worked on that side of the game and he is now effective when distributing the ball. He finished the match at the Vitality Stadium with a pass success rate of 85%. Although he didn’t make any key passes, his creativity isn’t why he is in the team. His role is to win the ball, bring it out of defence and give it to one of the attack-minded players. That role was carried out perfectly at Bournemouth.
Eric Dier has been his ever-consistent self this season and has done well in midfield in the absence of Wanyama, but Tottenham look a better team when the latter is in the starting eleven. He is more dynamic and a much better ball-winner, while he can quickly turn defence to attack. At times, the former can struggle to impose himself on games.
A quick comparison between the two highlights this, as Wanyama averages 3.27 ball recoveries per ninety minutes as opposed to Dier’s 2.7. Meanwhile, the Kenyan has a pass completion rate of 88%, which is slightly higher than his teammate, with 86%.
Considering Dier has had a lot more game-time this season, his stats are likely to be reflective of his ability. On the other hand, Wanyama has been building his match fitness levels up during this period. His ball recoveries per ninety minutes are likely to increase with more starts.
Pochettino is a manager that looks to rotate and there will be opportunities for both players. The return to form of Wanyama could even see the Argentine move back to a 3-4-2-1 formation with Dier going to centre-back. There are options to be more flexible, which wasn’t the case when the midfielder was out injured at the same time as Toby Alderweireld.
Although Tottenham are out of the Champion League, they still have a lot to play for. Pochettino will want to finish in second, while the opportunity to win the FA Cup should be taken seriously as this group of players has yet to lift a trophy.
Heading into the run-in, they need to play their best players in each position and this past weekend showed that Wanyama is one of those.