Tottenham Hotspur’s maiden Premier League fixture at Wembley Stadium was one to forget, as a brace from an unlikely source helped Chelsea earn a precious victory.
Marcos Alonso had opened the scoring with a stunning first-half free-kick and netted his second of the game in the dying minutes after an own goal from Michy Batshuayi had briefly levelled the scoreline.
Although the result was not to Mauricio Pochettino’s liking, there were some positives to take from his side’s display – not least the performance of midfielder Mousa Dembele.
While the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Cristian Eriksen often take the plaudits for Spurs, Dembele always goes about his business with little fuss. He is one of the most reliable performers in a Tottenham shirt and a player that has Pochettino’s complete trust.
In a midfield battle with Chelsea that was full of talent, Dembele emerged as the standout performer from either team. The Belgian was at his dominant best, aided by the support of Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, which allowed him to enjoy more room going forward.
Dembele’s physicality is well documented but this sometimes overshadows his ability as a footballer. Yes, his strength enables him to get a foothold on the game, because he can bully opponents off the ball. However, Dembele’s close control is superb and in the engine room, such a quality is a necessity.
Even under immense pressure, he can receive a pass and extricate himself from a tricky situation with minimal touches. On several occasions against Chelsea he was able to evade the shackles of opponents in this manner.
Dembele is not a goalscorer or a player who will provide lots of assists. His role is to be a conduit between defence and attack and at that, there are few better than him in the Premier League.
Although he could not inspire his team to victory, Dembele can hold his head up high and was deservedly Tottenham’s man of the match.
The Belgium international may now be 30 years of age, but there is no sign he is on the wane. If anything, the combative midfielder is continuing to grow in stature and influence under Pochettino.
Arguably, Dembele has been Spurs’ star performer in each of their two Premier League matches this season and, because of that, he must surely be one of the first names on the team-sheet.