Inside Lane: Does Mousa Dembele still have a role in Tottenham’s future?

PUBLISHED: 11:57 29 April 2015 | UPDATED: 15:20 29 April 2015

Mousa Dembele. Pic: John Walton/PA Wire

Mousa Dembele. Pic: John Walton/PA Wire

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Tottenham blogger Dan Kilpatrick discusses how Mauricio Pochettino might be able to get the best out of the enigmatic Belgian midfielder, Mousa Dembele.

As attention turns to the summer transfer window, there’s one fringe player above all I want Spurs to keep: Mousa Dembele.

Largely, it’s for selfish reasons. Fit and fired-up, there’s no Spurs player I enjoy watching more than Dembele. His ability to glide past opponents or beat a man with the drop of a shoulder is perhaps unrivalled and he’s potentially a dangerous weapon for Tottenham. Potentially…

It’s odd to talk about potential in a 27-year-old approaching the end of his fifth season in the Premier League, but undoubtedly Dembele should be better and do better. If Mauricio Pochettino can harness his talent, I think he could yet be an important player for Spurs but there are two problems the boss must solve.

The first is Dembele’s lack of a final ball. For all his elegance, strength and majestic dribbling, Dembele has no end product. He’s the anti-Nacer Chadli. Dembele’s league record for Tottenham stands at three goals and five assists in 81 games.

Interestingly, the same accusation was levelled at his predecessor Luka Modric but the Croatian saw attacks before they happened. He assisted the assister.

Dembele, however, plays with instinct rather than Modric’s intuition and his instinct is always, without fail, a safe backwards or sideways pass, regardless of his progress on the pitch.

Dembele’s best performance of the season came in the victory over Arsenal but he was guilty of two moments, one in each half, that summed him up - surging runs forward, followed by a check and a sideways pass. Arsenal regrouped.

The second issue is his lack of a fixed position. Given problem number one, it would seem logical to keep the Belgian as far away from the opponents’ goal as possible and utilise his skill and strength in a deep-lying playmaker role.

Dembele impressed in this position under Andre Villas-Boas but lost his way after Sandro’s injury in January 2013.

Pochettino has been reluctant to play Dembele in the ‘double-pivot’, probably because he takes too many touches, has a limited range of passing and is slow at moving the ball forward - and Pochettino, like Tim Sherwood, has experimented with some success at using Dembele in an attacking role.

There’s logic here too: dribbling past opponents in the centre circle is less effective than doing so on the edge of the box, and Dembele impressed in a mini-spell, flourishing against Arsenal and Liverpool, before he was unceremoniously dropped following an error against West Ham.

There’s reason to think he’s been hard done by, particularly given Christian Eriksen’s poor form, but that Pochettino might have already found a solution to problem number two.

Spurs are short of attacking options and Dembele, a good presser, could thrive in the ‘three’ of Pochettino’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system, particularly alongside Eriksen, Chadli and Harry Kane - three players in double figures for league goals this season, whose contributions would counter problem number one.

While Dembele has a decent chance of surviving the summer cull, time is running out for the Belgian, particularly with Tom Carroll, Dele Alli and Alex Pritchard due to further bloat Pochettino’s midfield.

No-one has problems describing those three as full of potential but Dembele arguably has just as much talent waiting to be unlocked.

Follow me on Twitter @TheTottenhamWay and visit the website at


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Tottenham Journal visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Tottenham Journal staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Tottenham Journal account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Tottenham Sports News

Friday, December 8, 2017

The NR F1 Podcast takes to the airwaves to bring you its review of the 2017 Formula 1 season, Lewis Hamilton’s record-breaking effort and dishes out its end of year awards.

Friday, November 17, 2017

I drove east around the M25 to Enfield after Arsene Wenger’s press conference at London Colney on Thursday to make the short trip to Hotspur Way to hear Mauricio Pochettino talk about the North London derby.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has spoken ahead of Saturday’s eagerly-awaited North London derby against bitter rivals Spurs at the Emirates.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Arsenal’s legendary right-back Lee Dixon, whose career in North London spanned the majority of the George Graham era and the first six years of Arsene Wenger’s reign has been talking exclusively to the Islington Gazette ahead of Saturday’s North London derby.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read sport


Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.