Tottenham Hotspur 2019-20: Jose can you see?

DJnVa

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Apparently Son broke his arm in the game Sunday and is now out 6-8 weeks. Because of course he did.

Is it Troy Parrott time?
 

scott bankheadcase

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Apparently Son broke his arm in the game Sunday and is now out 6-8 weeks. Because of course he did.

Is it Troy Parrott time?
Not according to Jose -- Says he's not ready.

Maybe Dele up top in a false 9? Or you just keep playing with Lucas up top and add Lamela into the mix. Bergewijn is another option, but there's simply no actual striker other than Parrot on the squad.
 

Zososoxfan

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Not according to Jose -- Says he's not ready.

Maybe Dele up top in a false 9? Or you just keep playing with Lucas up top and add Lamela into the mix. Bergewijn is another option, but there's simply no actual striker other than Parrot on the squad.
It's not perfect, but my choice is Lucas. He's so good at receiving the ball and can play with his back to goal a bit. Have to hope that surrounding him with combinations or all of Dele, Lamela, and Bergwijn will make it work. What a shit show this year my goodness.
 

Gunfighter 09

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What a perfect situation for Jose. If they finish 8th or 9th and get run out of the two Cups, it wasn't really his fault and he gets a fresh start for next year with only two (3) competitions to focus on in 2021. If they somehow get into the top 4(5) or in the UCL semis or win the FA Cup, it is all a testament to his genius.
 

Tuff Ghost

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The Athletic speculates on some of Spurs' options, including Moura or Dele as a false-9 as mentioned by posters here, and also mentioning that Lo Celso likely will be used more as an attacking midfielder, rather than as a number 8 as he has been since Sissoko's injury:

To retain their goal threat, Tottenham will likely need to move creative midfielder Giovani Lo Celso further forward. He has previously played as an attacking midfielder for Real Betis and Argentina, but began his career at Spurs on the right, where he could cut onto his left foot.

Moussa Sissoko’s injury has meant Lo Celso predominantly playing as a deeper-lying central midfielder in the last few weeks but Son’s absence could now see him moved further forward.
Should Lo Celso leave his current No 8 role, the burden would then be on Tanguy Ndombele to step in and partner Harry Winks in central midfield. Ndombele certainly has the talent to fulfill such a role but has yet to prove he is fit enough to put together a run of games.
 

scott bankheadcase

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The Athletic speculates on some of Spurs' options, including Moura or Dele as a false-9 as mentioned by posters here, and also mentioning that Lo Celso likely will be used more as an attacking midfielder, rather than as a number 8 as he has been since Sissoko's injury:
I think we might see more of Gedson as well. He's been electric in his cameo stints.
 

Zososoxfan

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Responding to the Spurs posts from the UCL R16 thread because it makes more sense to me.

First and foremost, lots of props to RBL. They have a very strong team and I really like their offensive setup. They have a young energetic squad and almost put the entire tie to bed in the first 15 minutes with an uber aggressive high press. Spurs avoided catastrophe through sheer luck. Once the match settled down, RBL was able to move the ball forward methodically and Nagelsmann has the squad understanding key concepts of numerical overloads and spacing. RBL kept using the same patterns to threaten Spurs--they would play the ball into feet (usually to Werner) between the lines (in front of the FBs, especially Serge), and would then layoff to supporting players who then had good options everywhere (up the line, behind the CBs, looking for the switch, etc.). It was even less complex on Davies' side as they just took him on 1v1 or used basic tactics to get around him. RBL's 1v1 defending looked suspect once Lamela, GLC, Ndombele, and Lucas got some flow going towards the end, but they also created lots of counters with tidy possession plays out of the back.

Pretty disappointing showing from Spurs, but in totality not a bad result TBH. On the good side of things, Sanchez was probably MOTM. He was a beast and tamped down Werner and one of the best attacking sides in Europe. Bergwijn continues to show tons of promise and potential. Lucas also did fairly well under difficult circumstances. Both substitutes, Lamela and Ndombele did good things and shifted the momentum in the final 20 minutes. Lamela in particular could really swing this season if he can stay healthy (watch as the record spins [sigh]). Ndombele once again showcased his skill, but also his pathetic fitness. It was truly jarring to see how little he moved. Hugo had some big stops.

There was clearly also lots of bad in this match. The FBs in particular stood out as being a real limitation. Davies really doesn't belong in a match of this magnitude. His penalty giveaway was something you see in a pub league. He's only 26--this is his peak and it's really only as a rotation EPL/early FA player. Was there any issue with Tanganga? Saving him for the Bridge this weekend? What about Sess? No longer a candidate for LB? I sincerely believe Jan would be better at LB in a match like this.

I've been a Serge stan since I first saw him play, but this match was a huge spotlight on his weaknesses. He didn't help very much on defense and committed clumsy and unnecessary fouls in bad spots. He's not quite skilled enough to help possess in the MF, his dribbles didn't cause many problems, his movement was OK, and his service into the box was not nearly consistent or good enough. I'm out on Serge officially.

I didn't get to watch this match as closely as I wanted, but I did see enough to know that Spurs got absolutely shelled in first 15 minutes and I don't think it got much better until the subs came on. Some or a lot of that has to fall on Winks, GLC, and Gedson. But I can't say much more than that.

Dele was obviously pissed to come off, but I think Mou watched the match unfolding, saw that RBL was set on shutting him down, and figured he's better off saving Dele's legs a bit for Chelsea. I think Dele is just too tired to carry the offensive load right now. He'll obviously play significant minutes this weekend and likely again vs. Wolves, but he needs to get significant rest between the Norwich and Burnley matches.
 

DJnVa

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Good stuff.

I was reading article and it said this about Lucas: "He can't hit the broad side of a barn but at least he can dribble towards the cows."
 

scott bankheadcase

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Pundits are taking Spurs to task a bit for this match, but I think there's a good chance we'll look back in a couple weeks and it will be Lepzig that made the tactical mistakes. After getting the 1 away goal, they stopped pressing, and started holding back and time wasting.

1-0 with an away goal is a good result, but it doesn't come close to putting the tie away. There's a much bigger payoff of a second away goal in a game you're playing well in vs risk of a Spurs equalizer.

If Spurs score first in Germany, they're in the drivers seat now. I think Nagelsman showed a little but of inexperience.
 

DJnVa

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And while we still won't have Kane or Son, we should be a little more settled as opposed to just losing Son a few days prior.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Pundits are taking Spurs to task a bit for this match, but I think there's a good chance we'll look back in a couple weeks and it will be Lepzig that made the tactical mistakes. After getting the 1 away goal, they stopped pressing, and started holding back and time wasting.

1-0 with an away goal is a good result, but it doesn't come close to putting the tie away. There's a much bigger payoff of a second away goal in a game you're playing well in vs risk of a Spurs equalizer.

If Spurs score first in Germany, they're in the drivers seat now. I think Nagelsman showed a little but of inexperience.
No team can press effectively for more than 60-70 minutes so its hard to tell whether that was a tactical change occasioned by the goal or whether playing deeper without the ball was the plan all along and they just happened to score roughly around the same time they would have to make that tactical adjustment anyway. Its also worth noting that RBL had a great chance once playing on the break, better than any chance Spurs generated when allowed more of the ball, but Schick hit it straight at the keeper.

Spurs are absolutely still in the tie but I think it was RBL's finishing, more than their tactics, that kept them from putting it to bed.
 

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Heading in to the 6 pointer at Chelsea, Ndombele remains the biggest question mark. He shown what a difference he makes in short spells.
Is he only a 20 minute player at this point (nursing an injury?)? Or was Jose saving his legs for 70+ minutes at the Bridge? I really, really hope it is the latter.
 

scott bankheadcase

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Heading in to the 6 pointer at Chelsea, Ndombele remains the biggest question mark. He shown what a difference he makes in short spells.
Is he only a 20 minute player at this point (nursing an injury?)? Or was Jose saving his legs for 70+ minutes at the Bridge? I really, really hope it is the latter.
Even if he can just give the first 60 and then Gedson comes on to see it out it would be enormous (especially pared with Lo Celso).
 

caseumsd

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This team needs a dramatic overhaul. Dier sucks, Winks can only pass backwards and sideways, Ndombele seems like he’s ate his way around London, etc. The only positives to come out of this season will be to get healthy and build around GLC, Bergwijn, Son and Kane. Need a DCM and a whole new defense. Should be a real interesting transfer window
 

coremiller

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Aurier-Tanganga-Dier-Davies is a midtable-at-best backline. Why are Toby and Jan not playing?
 

Kliq

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Spurs knocked out of the FA Cup on penalties to Norwich. Then Eric Dier went into the stands to fight a fan who allegedly hurled racial insults at Gedson.
 

swiftaw

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Spurs knocked out of the FA Cup on penalties to Norwich. Then Eric Dier went into the stands to fight a fan who allegedly hurled racial insults at Gedson.
I heard it was because the fan was harassing his brother.
 

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Was that the last time we see Dier in a Spurs uniform? He at least needs to take a long break away from the pitch. You just can't do that.
 

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I really liked Mou's response in the presser. Paraphrasing: "As professionals we cannot do that, but I sympathize with the player. I think many of us would do that in the same situation. But we cannot do that because we're professionals." He was then asked if the club will take action against Dier: "I don't know the answer to that, but I would not agree with it."

I only got to see highlights from yesterday (bravo FA!) but it was just so fucking great to see Jan score and unleash all his pent up emotions. I fucking love Jan and will defend him forever and always, no matter how plodding he gets (is). Is there any reason Vorm played over Gaz yesterday? With Hugo back for EPL and UCL, I would've thought Gaz would get the call.

Also, I hate Krul's gamesmanship but he is truly elite at penalty stopping. He clearly came off his line early more than once during the penalties, but if you get away with it the risk is obviously worth the reward.
 

Smiling Joe Hesketh

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Vorm came off his line early as well. They're basically never going to call that.

Krul's work in penalty shootouts is legendary. He def plays mind games with the shooters, that's a long time tactic for him.

First time Norwich have reached the quarterfinals in 28 years.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Is Krul really elite at penalties? His gamesmanship is legendary and elite, but what about the actual results prior to a possible hot-streak this year?

It's tough to find the data in an easily digested format, but I went through this exercise earlier in the year (after his save on an Aubameyang penalty). Below is what I found today.

TransferMarkt has his career in-game penalties as 6 saves and 45 non-saves.
Washington Post has his career Premier League stats (Newcastle and Norwich) as 4 saves and 24 goals allowed.
This 90min list showed him with a penalty save percentage of 17.2%. (It lists the 9 best keeper save percentages in Premier League history which go from Adrian at 27.8% through Manuel Almunia at 42.9%.)

This BBC article from today has the following:
Tim Krul is great at saving penalties, right? Well it turns out that is not strictly true.

Krul's cameo in the 2014 World Cup quarter-final was the stuff of legend. He came on in the final minute of extra time for the Netherlands against Costa Rica, specifically for the shootout.
...
But he has actually only saved two of the last 20 he has faced during matches (excluding shootouts) since 2012-13.

"Everyone says I am good at penalties so I knew I'd better start saving some," he told BBC Sport after the shootout.
His antics are top-class, though, and extremely annoying when he's going against your team, especially since he always seems to come off his line early:
His water bottle had a list of Spurs players and which direction they would go.

His mind games seemed to rattle the Spurs players as he took ages to get ready each time, often checking his bottle, and he came off his line for several penalties - although it was not picked up by the officials...

"Me and my coach do our homework, I had them on my bottle, it all happens in a shootout."
The Athletic also has an article today about his reputation/legend on penalties.
The 31-year-old former Newcastle goalkeeper has a penalty reputation that precedes him. In Salvador at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Krul, whose two saves took the Netherlands into the semi-finals, had replaced Jasper Cillessen in the final seconds of extra time after being considered a penalty-saving specialist...

Krul has pulled off some outstanding saves from 12 yards. He has also provoked some extremely poor efforts from those he is facing. Both results are what makes the Dutchman so good at the scenario. He is not shy in having a word with the outfield player he is about to face, seconds before they begin their run-up. He smiles, is a ball of unsustainable energy, with arms flung against the crossbar to make it reverberate. He is already in their head, getting away with as much as he possibly can, invading space and making himself heard when all his rival wants to do is focus.
Regardless, Ben Roberts (Brighton's goalkeeping coach) had the best quote about Krul:
He’s a top bloke — with an awful Geordie mullet.
 

SoxFanInCali

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I always laugh when goalkeepers and coaches try to act like they know exactly where each player will shoot. Other than the team's designated penalty taker and maybe his backup, how many guys you would see in a penalty shootout have a history with a bigger sample size of 1 or 2?
 

Tuff Ghost

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I am not convinced that there is much of a difference in the skills needed to save a penalty in a shootout versus an in-game penalty; both are high-stakes and Krul goes through all of his gamesmanship when doing either. From what I can find, Krul has been involved in 3 penalty shootouts (2014 World Cup, 2017 Dutch Cup with AZ Alkmaar, and last night). The results in those three are great (3 goals, 2 goals, 2 goals), but the sample-size of in-game penalties is a bit larger, so I don't think they should be ignored.

Krul seems to do a decent amount of preparation for these situations, so you'd think that help with the likely in-game penalty takers (he'd have more of a file on the regular penalty-takers), but maybe he does better at throwing off the less experienced penalty takers (that case could be made for last night), and that's why his shoot-out results have been better.
 

Zososoxfan

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There's been some recent studies on keeper height vs. effectiveness and I'd be willing to bet that height is a much bigger factor on spot kicks than open play.
 

SocrManiac

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Penalty shootouts absolutely cut both ways, and I’m not sure we have the right methodology for analyzing them. Let’s be clear: I hate them in every possible form. It’s like deciding a game of chess by playing a hand of poker.

A professional footballer can put a ball on a dime from 30 yards. They don’t even think about passing or trapping. It’s the absolute equivalent of playing catch in baseball. For some reason, when you put a guy with a ball twelve yards from an enormous goal (24’ x 8’), something happens. It’s like a ballplayer in his prime is sent out to throw a ceremonial first pitch, but suddenly can’t toss the ball to the catcher. Even guessing correctly, the most athletic goalkeeper in the world can’t stop a shot to at least 25% of the goal, probably more. You’d think a professional footballer could easily find those spots and hit them every time. Something I can’t fathom makes it incredibly difficult.

There’s less data on the takers in a shootout. These guys don’t take their team’s regular penalties. That means they’re also not regulars at the spot. While the keeper might not have data on a kicker, the kicker doesn’t have the experience or the comfort that comes from that situation. A goalkeeper’s head games can absolutely influence an inexperienced taker. Krul’s antics probably wouldn’t phase a team’s first or backup shooter, but #3 or #4? Probably.

A keeper that has a high success rate in saving penalties in the league won’t necessarily translate to a shootout, especially if he relies on data. Conversely, a keeper well-versed in head games, like Krul, might be more successful in a shootout against inexperienced shooters, but he can’t crack a regular. In Germany 2006, two of the world’s best faced off In a final: Buffon and Barthez. There were no saves. It’s just not a skill game. It’s a head game.
 

Zososoxfan

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Penalty shootouts absolutely cut both ways, and I’m not sure we have the right methodology for analyzing them. Let’s be clear: I hate them in every possible form. It’s like deciding a game of chess by playing a hand of poker.

A professional footballer can put a ball on a dime from 30 yards. They don’t even think about passing or trapping. It’s the absolute equivalent of playing catch in baseball. For some reason, when you put a guy with a ball twelve yards from an enormous goal (24’ x 8’), something happens. It’s like a ballplayer in his prime is sent out to throw a ceremonial first pitch, but suddenly can’t toss the ball to the catcher. Even guessing correctly, the most athletic goalkeeper in the world can’t stop a shot to at least 25% of the goal, probably more. You’d think a professional footballer could easily find those spots and hit them every time. Something I can’t fathom makes it incredibly difficult.

There’s less data on the takers in a shootout. These guys don’t take their team’s regular penalties. That means they’re also not regulars at the spot. While the keeper might not have data on a kicker, the kicker doesn’t have the experience or the comfort that comes from that situation. A goalkeeper’s head games can absolutely influence an inexperienced taker. Krul’s antics probably wouldn’t phase a team’s first or backup shooter, but #3 or #4? Probably.

A keeper that has a high success rate in saving penalties in the league won’t necessarily translate to a shootout, especially if he relies on data. Conversely, a keeper well-versed in head games, like Krul, might be more successful in a shootout against inexperienced shooters, but he can’t crack a regular. In Germany 2006, two of the world’s best faced off In a final: Buffon and Barthez. There were no saves. It’s just not a skill game. It’s a head game.
I love to think about how BB would handle this. At a minimum, BB would have end of practice sprints banking on a make or miss. Maybe the losing side of a PK competition runs only. I'm sure he'd also make them take PKs from sogging wet conditions, torn up conditions, and everything in between.
 

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What a mess of a match against Burnley. The first half was well and truly dreadful and Spurs were lucky to only be down a goal. Mou tried out a 3-4-2-1 with Toby, Dier, and Sanchez at the back with Jan and Tang as the wingbacks. As you can guess from the names, that played much more like 5 at the back. Ndombele and Skipp played in the middle with Bergy, Lamela, and Dele up top. Hugo completely duffed the shot on the first shot that led to the tap in for Burnley's goal. Certainly a bit rusty still. The middle of the field was a mess and the forwards didn't put Burnley's defense under enough pressure to pin them back much. Dele and Lamela almost combined for a goal but otherwise the half was forgettable.

At the half, Mou mercifully realized how bad it was and brought on GLC for Ndombele and Lucas on for Skipp. Spurs switched to a back 4 and Dier pushed into MF. The team immediately looked much more fluid and dare I say that Dier had a good match. What stood out to me in this match though was the low quality by both sides. This reminded me of the EPL of 3-5 years ago when I would've argued that Spain's midtable sides were as good if not better than their EPL peers. In the last couple of seasons I think the EPL pulled away but either the cutoff is higher in the table now or these two sides just aren't that good. Without 4 of the opening day XI (Kane, Son, Sissoko, and Eriksen) that's a bit understandable, but nevertheless it was jarring to see Spurs look this bad.

With United and Chelsea looking strong, and Wolves, Sheffield, and Arsenal at or better than Spurs' current level, I would absolutely take a UEL finish right now.
 

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At this moment, who would you actually want to see on the squad next season?

Kane, Son, Dele, Sanchez, GLC, Bergy, Sess, Sissoko, Gedson, Tang, Skipp. Everyone else is expendable to me.
 

Kliq

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At this moment, who would you actually want to see on the squad next season?

Kane, Son, Dele, Sanchez, GLC, Bergy, Sess, Sissoko, Gedson, Tang, Skipp. Everyone else is expendable to me.
I think Toby has actually been pretty good this season, but is playing out of position most of the time. His service with balls over the top have been a rare highlight this year.

Lucas and Lamela both have their uses, especially if they come off the bench. Asking them to be your strikers full-time is going to expose them.
 

Zososoxfan

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I think Toby has actually been pretty good this season, but is playing out of position most of the time. His service with balls over the top have been a rare highlight this year.

Lucas and Lamela both have their uses, especially if they come off the bench. Asking them to be your strikers full-time is going to expose them.
Sure, I don't have a real problem with those guys, or someone like Gaz either. Spurs obviously can't turn over 2/3 of the squad, even though I might want them to.
 

Kliq

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Kane's absence is really apparent today. Tottenham have actually gotten themselves into some decent attacking positions, but the lack of a true striker to make the right kind of runs and to draw attention, as well as a pure finisher that can get on the end of crosses, has prevented them from getting on the score sheet.
 

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My buddy and I got into a heated argument last night because I don't think starting Dier at CB is defensible and he thinks I'm splitting hairs. My argument was that I'd rather have Jan out there because even if he can't get to where he's supposed to be at least he KNOWS where he's supposed to be. Dier can't get there either but he doesn't know what he's supposed to be doing either. Putting Dier in the middle also took Toby out of his preferred position. It may be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but Spurs looked pretty good for the first 10-15 minutes before conceding the first 2 goals. If they could've hung on a bit longer it would've been fun to see if they had any magic left.
 

67YAZ

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Here’s a precious story about Levy’s negotiating tactics from an Athletic story:

Take, for instance, the summer a few years back when Spurs were in the market for Wilfried Zaha. Levy emailed Steve Parish, the Crystal Palace chairman, with a £14 million offer that was dismissed out of hand. Zaha had just enjoyed a fine season at Selhurst Park, helping his team to the FA Cup final, but Spurs valued him at less than the £16 million Palace had paid United to bring him back to the club in 2015. Parish said at the time: “It’s ridiculous. I can’t imagine that they’re serious.”

Undeterred, Levy then started up a new discussion, asking whether Palace would be interested in Spurs midfielder Ryan Mason. Parish asked for a price. Levy suggested £14 million. A bit high, but room to negotiate. In response, Levy then, as if clinching a check-mate move with the pieces in place, allegedly proposed a straight swap deal for Zaha to alleviate any concerns Palace had over the cash commitment. In the end, Parish stopped replying to the emails and Mason went to Hull City for £10 million.
 

candylandriots

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Zaha for £14 million lol.

Even if he were worth that little to Levy, he must be smart enough to know how much he’s worth to Palace. They are a pretty much a Championship team without Zaha. That makes him worth many multiples of what Levy offered to Parish.
 

DJnVa

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Apparently Tottenham was still practicing until yesterday. lol
 

coremiller

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I imagine clubs send out these lowball fishing offers all the time and nothing ever comes of 99% of them. But you never know when you're going to luck into the soccer equivalent of Bill O'Brien being on the other side.
 

Kliq

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I know he isn't missing anything right now, but it is crazy this guy can't get out of his military service:

30770
 

SeoulSoxFan

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I know he isn't missing anything right now, but it is crazy this guy can't get out of his military service:

View attachment 30770
That's not the "official" military service duty that lasts for 18 months.

Son's currently in the basic military training that lasts for 4 weeks. He's free to go back to England to train afterwards.
 

Kliq

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That's not the "official" military service duty that lasts for 18 months.

Son's currently in the basic military training that lasts for 4 weeks. He's free to go back to England to train afterwards.
Yeah I know, I really wanted an excuse to just post the photo.
 

Tangled Up In Red

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Really good look at Ndombele (are we allowed to post full articles?)

Analysing Tanguy Ndombele’s difficult first season at Tottenham
From The Athletic
By Charlie Eccleshare & Tom Worville


When Mousa Dembele left Tottenham in January 2019, it took Tottenham just six months to find the man they thought could fill the void. Tanguy Ndombele became Spurs’ record signing last summer and was billed as the new midfield powerhouse the club’s fans were yearning for.
Sadly, things haven’t quite turned out that way so far. Ndombele, still only 23, has played far less than expected of a marquee signing. Even when he has played, performances have been hit and miss. His struggles have been such that he has been linked with a move away from Spurs when the transfer window reopens — though The Athletic understands Tottenham have no intention of selling him. Having only joined last summer, there is a desire for the player to make good on their substantial investment.
A move to Paris Saint-Germain is thought to be of interest at some stage in his career to Ndombele, but for the moment he is expected to stay and fight for his place.

What can we expect from Ndombele when football resumes? Here, The Athletic provides some context to debates regarding his fitness, looks at the reasons he was signed in the first place, and considers what his future at the club looks like based on his Tottenham appearances so far…

After a disappointing display against Burnley in March when Ndombele was hooked at half-time, head coach Jose Mourinho unleashed weeks of pent-up frustration. “In the first half, we didn’t have a midfield,” he said. “I have to say that Tanguy had enough time to come to a different level. A player with this potential and responsibility has to give us more than he is giving us.” The Athletic was told at the time that Ndombele’s lack of conditioning had become a “big concern” at the club.
A couple of days later, Jamie Carragher highlighted Ndombele’s apparent laziness on Sky’s Monday Night Football. “He either can’t run or doesn’t want to run. Neither of them are good things,” Carragher said.

When considering Ndombele’s performances, the implication of “can’t” or “won’t” is a strong starting point. If a player has too many “can’ts”, then there’s little coaching that can improve his game. Think about Lionel Messi winning headers for instance — you can’t teach height.
While physical data is tough to come by for some leagues, we can look to Ndombele’s appearance data in France to get an understanding of whether he had the legs to play regularly or not. Looking at his minutes, appearances and a few other stats over the past two years of his career, there’s nothing that really screams “fitness issues” here:

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In his first year in the French top flight, Ndombele appeared in 35 of 38 Ligue 1 games (three for Amiens before a move to Lyon on deadline day), completing 14. Featuring so frequently in his first season at a big team looks pretty positive for Ndombele, and again there’s nothing here that signals fitness issues. However, it should be noted that, in the early stages of his career, there were concerns about his conditioning. In 2016, he had to devise a weight-loss plan after Amiens coaches told him he was “not really fit, overweight”.
The following season, he completed nearly double the amount of games and only missed out on the match-day squad for one game. Again, little evidence to show he can’t handle the physical side of the game. That year, he showed sufficiently impressive form to earn a move to Tottenham. However, the stats in his first season in England paint a different story.

So far this season, Ndombele has played a third of the minutes of his previous league seasons and has only completed three games. His availability has also dropped through the floor, missing eight match-day squads — more than his prior two seasons combined, with nine games of the season still unplayed. According to Ben Dinnery, an injury analyst at Premier Injuries, part of this could be due to the increased intensity of the Premier League.
“Coming from Ligue 1 is a huge physical step up,” Dinnery says. “Acclimatising to the Premier League is tough. The demands on the body are different, and all these changes could be going against the grain of some traits he’s been brought up with. Suddenly there are differences and it’s about being able to tolerate and cope with those.”
Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe is another to have found the physical gap between the two leagues a hard one to bridge this season.
In line with this, it’s interesting to note that, despite Ndombele not missing many games at Lyon, there were fitness concerns at Tottenham as early as pre-season. “For him it’s difficult. We cannot expect too much,” Mauricio Pochettino said in early August.
Given he’s played under two managers at Tottenham already, it’s best to consider this season’s appearance numbers in context. Ndombele was granted more starts, minutes and finished more games under Pochettino — even though Mourinho has been in charge for more matches this season (12 vs 17).
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Up until Pochettino left in November, Ndombele also saw minutes each time he made the match-day squad, whereas under Mourinho there have been two such occasions where he’s not seen any time on the field — at home to Norwich in January and away to Aston Villa in February.
But it wasn’t just the switch in manager that precipitated a change in Ndombele’s fortunes this season. Pochettino’s departure also coincided with Ndombele’s injury issues deteriorating. In Pochettino’s last match in charge — against Sheffield United — Ndombele was forced off at half-time with a groin problem that hampered him for weeks.
A month later, having made just one start under Mourinho, Ndombele declared himself unfit for the Boxing Day win against Brighton, prompting Mourinho to say: “He was not injured, but not feeling in a condition to play.”
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Six days later, Mourinho said Ndombele was “always injured” after he limped off 25 minutes into Spurs’ 1-0 defeat at Southampton. At around this time, Ndombele was placed on a fitness programme, encompassing nutrition, physiotherapy and individual training work. That individual training work even continued during the lockdown, with Mourinho arranging an ill-advised one-on-one session with the player on Hadley Common last month. Mourinho accepted doing so was wrong, but his view is that he is simply determined to get the best out of Ndombele — even if many questioned him going public with his criticisms. Either way, when Ndombele joined Spurs, he appeared to have resolved the fitness issues that afflicted him at Amiens. He grew year-on-year at Lyon, finishing more games and playing more minutes.
It’s a very different picture at Spurs. Whether that’s down to the difficulties of joining a new league or, as some in the dressing room believe, down to a failure of application, these issues need to be resolved. If and when they do, the numbers suggest that those Dembele comparisons will start to look excitingly accurate.
Before his move to Spurs, Ndombele was a favourite in analytics circles for some time. In 2018, a blog by Analytics FC noted how he could be an apt replacement for Dembele, detailing how his “overall profile is extremely similar to Dembele’s, especially his dribbling, his stand-out feature”.
Ndombele’s ability to beat his man using an arsenal of feints, jukes and stepovers is something that was picked up in the numbers, and it’s not just Analytics FC who spotted it. According to player-evaluation tool Smarterscout, Ndombele and Dembele both have a dribble rating of 99 out of 99 in each of the last three seasons when playing in defensive midfield, based on their ability to beat a man and carry the ball upfield.
That is a valued skill for a few reasons. First, it means that the player can act as a pressure-reliever to break the opposition’s press. Second, it’s an extremely useful skill to dislodge opposition shape, attracting opponent players towards you like a magnet and opening up spaces for team-mates to move into. Losing Dembele’s ability to do this when he joined Guangzhou R&F was a major reason why Spurs did not win a Premier League away game from the end last January until November 22.
Happily for Spurs, Ndombele does not appear to have left this skill behind in Lyon, which is part of the reason he is such a wonderfully entertaining player to watch. Looking at the numbers, compared to other central midfielders in the Premier League, he sits first for attempted dribbles per 90 minutes played (4.7) and second for completed dribbles (3.6) just behind Mateo Kovacic (3.7).

Ndombele is not just a dribbling machine, though. He’s also an extremely underrated passer.
Thanks to data from Sportlogiq, we can now accurately quantify when and where a player breaks a line with a pass. These line-breaking passes are defined as a pass that goes through a defensive line of the opposing team’s formation. The series of stills below shows one of Ndombele’s many such passes:
These passes are a good indicator of a player’s ability to progress the ball forward and start attacks, and can help distinguish between those passes that are forwards but don’t necessarily penetrate opposition shape and those that do.
Looking at the table below of midfielders in the Premier League who complete the most line-breaking passes per 90 minutes played, we see that Ndombele sits third in the list.
There are plenty of names here that potentially go under the radar when looking at more traditional metrics (Brighton’s pair of Davy Propper and Dale Stephens for example), but on the whole, Ndombele is among some strong company:

Of this group, he’s also attempting the second-most passes that look to break a line, behind Chelsea’s Jorginho — a player often labelled as a sideways passer. Ndombele’s Tottenham team-mate Harry Winks is seventh on the list, and his 80 per cent completion rate shows his ability to progress the ball forwards with greater efficiency, but lower volume.
Nemanja Matic’s inclusion is intriguing, the player whom Mourinho brought back to Chelsea, and then signed at Manchester United. There’s an argument to say that potentially in Ndombele, he has a player now who can offer similar ball progression in the base of the midfield.
When just looking at Spurs’ central midfielders, Ndombele and Winks sit at the top, with the rest of the midfield a fair way behind.
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Looking at the location of Ndombele’s completed line-breaking passes shows that he’s not making easier passes out to the wings. He’s completing plenty within the penalty box-width of the pitch, allowing Spurs to progress upfield centrally. The assists for Erik Lamela and Son Heung-min in games against Manchester City are highlighted, the latter being a lovely reverse ball that bypassed a number of City bodies.


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Plenty of the passes in the graphic above take place in the opponent’s half. These could be explained by Ndombele’s driving runs into the opposition half, or a lack of available options to make a penetrative pass when in possession of the ball deeper in midfield.
Boasting this skill set, Ndombele has the ability to be an extremely effective progressive central midfield for Spurs. But their ability to get the most out of him relies not only on getting him in the right condition to play regularly in the Premier League, but also effectively partnering him in midfield. To learn more about that, let’s investigate his partners at Lyon, where he often played in a midfield three.
In 2017-18, his most frequent midfield partner was Lucas Tousart, a more traditional defensive midfielder, whom he started alongside in various formations in 24 out of his 28 starts for Lyon.
To build a picture of Tousart’s skill set, we can use Smarterscout to find players who have statistically similar profiles. Interestingly, compared to players in the Premier League in recent years, Tousart’s game most resembles that of Victor Wanyama at Tottenham in 2016-17 — someone adapt at disrupting opposition moves and linking play with functional passing, but poor at progressing the ball upfield. Tellingly, Wanyama brought the best out of Dembele when they formed a formidable central midfield axis during that 2016-17 season.
Next on the list of his Lyon midfield partners is Houssem Aouar, who started alongside Ndombele in 12 out of 28 starts in 2017-18 and 18 out of 31 in 2018-19. Looking to Smarterscout, Aoaur is one of Europe’s hottest prospects, with a statistical profile similar to David Silva, a 34-year-old who is still excellent at linking play and receiving the ball in the penalty area.
It’s tough to think of a more apples-and-oranges midfield partnership than Wanyama and Silva, but those are the sorts of players that Ndombele thrived next to at Lyon.
Of Spurs’ current squad, his best partner might be Moussa Sissoko, with Sissoko able to balance out Ndombele’s driving runs upfield by covering the midfield himself. However, partly because of injuries, the two Frenchman have only started together twice under Mourinho, and even before then the season opener against Villa was the sole game in which they both completed 90 minutes. Sissoko has been out with a knee problem since January, but is now fit to play.

One experiment worth pursuing is partnering Ndombele with the energetic Giovani Lo Celso, who some sources compare stylistically to Silva. Ndombele and Lo Celsa have very rarely started together, and would provide a good mix of dynamism in midfield. In limited minutes, Lo Celso has shown some defensive prowess, too, that could make him the yin to Ndombele’s yang — his 9.9 true tackles (which is successful tackles plus fouls and failed challenges) per 1,000 opponent touches dwarves that of Spurs’ other midfield options. The next highest are Winks and Sissoko, attempting 5.6 per 1,000 opponent touches. While this is likely a product of a small sample size, it shows at least Lo Celso can do some defensive work.
What’s harder to quantify is Ndombele’s effort levels or running stats — although as per the commandments, their lack of context means they don’t really tell us a lot anyway — but referencing Ndombele’s supposed lack of effort in recent games is worthy of note. His last three Premier League games have seen him hauled off in the 25th minute against Southampton due to injury, in the 63rd minute against Chelsea and at half-time against Burnley.
In the latter two games, Ndombele made no interceptions and only registered one tackle — the rest of his tackle attempts led to him either being shrugged off by the man with the ball, or committing a foul. A viral video from March showed a similar amount of toothlessness when out of possession, getting skinned easily by Wolves’ Pedro Neto and ambling back. Ultimately, defensive prowess is a mix of grit and tenacity, and having the fitness levels required to fulfil that. Mourinho’s job is to alter the mindset of a player, who in December 2018 said: “To run after the ball against little teams is a bit boring.”
Although that might have been a throwaway comment, there are some stats that could back up claims that Ndombele is not fit enough for the Premier League. Generating a data profile for perceived effort and aerobic fitness is difficult with current public datasets, but we can look at where Ndombele spends his time on the pitch.
We might expect an all-action midfielder to make his touches equally across all thirds of the pitch, whereas a defensive midfielder is likely to sit back and have a larger number of touches in the first two thirds. Studying the graphic below, we see that Ndombele is making far fewer of his actions in his own defensive third compared to Sissoko, Winks and Eric Dier under Jose Mourinho.

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We also see that Ndombele sees most of his touches in the middle third, with 70 per cent of his touches coming in that area. This does not quite provide irrefutable evidence that Ndombele is not putting in the hard yards, but it does show that Mourinho has work to do if he wants Ndombele to contribute at the sharp ends of the pitch.
Ndombele deserves to be given a chance to prove he can improve, not only because he is new to a league with a team going through a turbulent period, but also because of how much he has to offer.
As the above shows, there is a huge amount to work with from a creative perspective, and considerable potential to exploit as and when Ndombele is fully fit and settled.
Already the extremely exciting skill set that put Ndombele in the shop window has translated to his time at Tottenham, putting up numbers that compare with the league’s best for dribbling and ball progression. The problem so far has been his relative lack of availability, which is an issue Mourinho and Spurs have been working hard to address.
Given his extraordinary talents, finding a way to put Ndombele on the pitch with a partner that Mourinho can trust is key to Tottenham’s future.