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.
Is Erik Lamela about to have his best season yet as a Tottenham player?
The Argentine made a real impact against Fulham.
Erik Lamela impressed as Tottenham recorded a 2-1 victory over London rivals Fulham on Saturday.
The Argentine international hasn’t quite lived up to the reputation that accompanied his £25.7 million price when he moved from Roma in August 2013.
While he has threatened to show his true potential at times, he has never been able to achieve the level of consistency that warrants a regular starting spot for Spurs.
Nonetheless, fans were treated to the Argentine at his very best when he broke from his own half, dribbling past the entire Fulham midfield, before laying off the ball to Harry Kane for his goal at the weekend.
He complemented this moment with a confident cameo display from the bench, in which he threatened the opponents’ goal on two occasions, while fulfilling his role defensively, breaking up several Fulham counter-attacks.
Despite not getting as many minutes as he would have liked, Lamela was hugely influential in turning the course of the tie for the Lilywhites, and this could see him rewarded with his first start of the campaign in the not too distant future.
Having a fit and firing Erik Lamela gives Pochettino another excellent option for rotation in attack. After his cameo at Wembley, there is a feeling that the 26-year-old is well prepared for his best season as a Tottenham player.
Tottenham’s Anthony Martial decision looked justified against Brighton
The Frenchman was poor against Brighton after summer in which Tottenham tried to sign him.
There were plenty of poor performances from the Manchester United players. The likes of Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof and even David De Gea did not cover themselves in glory. But Anthony Martial might have been the pick of the bunch.
With Alexis Sanchez missing the Frenchman got a surprise start but failed to take his opportunity. He looked disinterested at times and was anonymous throughout, before being hauled off by Mourinho.
“After thinking about all the factors and possibilities, Anthony wants to leave Manchester United. There are lots of factors, and right now it’s too early to talk about them…”
It comes at the end of a summer in which it seemed he would leave. The player wanted to go, as confirmed by his agent.
Tottenham Hotspur were heavily linked with his signature. However, as reported by the Evening Standard, Spurs were never going to pay the asking price for the French international – set at a cool £80 million by the Old Trafford hierarchy.
At one point toward the end of the transfer window, it appeared that things have softened and a deal might go through. But Tottenham did not get their man.
Based on the evidence on display this afternoon, Tottenham fans might be pleased. But his display today shows exactly why he should have been allowed to join Tottenham this summer.
Clearly, he is not happy. Because on his day the 21-year-old is a devastating forward with the ability to leave even the best defences in tatters.
A move to Tottenham could have reinvigorated his spirit and career. As it is, he is stuck at United where he looks set to cut a destitute figure until January at least. If he carries on this form, then Tottenham are unlikely to come knocking on the door again.
Three selection headaches Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino faces ahead of Manchester United trip
The Argentinian made two changes against Fulham having beaten Newcastle and despite the impressive win at Wembley, could make more before heading to the north-west with several doubts over key men in the team.
Here are some of the biggest decisions he will have to make over the week ahead…
Ben Davies or Danny Rose?
Ben Davies has had a poor pre-season and a disappointing start to the Premier League season, potentially opening the door for a return for Danny Rose. Linked with an exit in the summer, Rose was on the bench against Fulham and could be applying the pressure on the Welshman who took his place last season.
It seems unlikely that Pochettino would make such a change for such an important fixture, but equally he may not want to gamble on Davies costing his team with an error.
Lucas Moura in attack?
One of the best performers throughout pre-season and, in particular, against Fulham, has been Lucas Moura. The Brazilian has played as a second striker and been impressive, creating and finishing chances and posing an alternative threat to Harry Kane.
Yet, selecting Moura means that Pochettino must sacrifice a midfielder such as Moussa Dembele, which he may be reluctant to do going to Old Trafford. This decision will be a clear reflection of how confident Pochettino feels about his team’s chances of a win.
Is it right to play Toby Alderweireld?
Goal were among many sources to claim that the Belgian was close to joining Jose Mourinho’s side this summer as speculation continued throughout the transfer window. Alderweireld returned to the line-up for only his sixth appearance for the club in 2018 against Fulham, but Pochettino may have doubts.
The coach could question whether Alderweireld’s mentality would be correct to face a club he reportedly wanted to sign for in only his second appearance of the season, and with the likes of Eric Dier ready to step in, he may opt to be cautious.
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