Grading the squad: Central Midfielders

Jamie McDonald

These grades are all pretty average. They probably also lack character and gut.

You know what's hard about dividing the midfielders up into central midfielders and wide players? Thanks to Tim Sherwood, I have no idea who should be what. Is Nacer Chadli a central midfielder? Is Christian Eriksen a winger? Tim Sherwood didn't know and, now, neither do I. So, for the sake of argument, I'm splitting them into central midfielders and attacking midfielders. If you don't like where I put a particular player, then I'm sorry, but it really doesn't matter for the purposes of grading.

Paulinho: Might as well get the contentious one out of the way right off the bat. Paulinho was the club's joint-third top scorer in the Premier League and contributed eight goals in all competitions on the season. He played in 37 matches, making him a pretty frequent fixture in our first eleven. Despite that, Paulinho was pretty disappointing. He led the team in shots (80), but only managed to get 28 of them on goal. His positioning, particularly when partnered with Mousa Dembele in a midfield pivot was horrendous. When given the freedom to operate as a box-to-box midfielder in a three-man midfield or when partnered with a more defensive player, Paulinho performed much better. He gets a bad grade this year, but I think in the right system and in the right role he's going to be excellent. I saw enough this year to have big hopes for Lil' Paul next year. C-.

Etienne Capoue: When we signed Capoue last summer, I said that it didn't make much sense, particularly if we had a healthy Sandro. We didn't have a healthy Sandro, but we also rarely had a healthy Capoue. The Frenchman made only 18 appearances in his first year in England, with some of those coming as an emergency centerback. Capoue had a couple of really impressive performance this season (@Swansea, Arsenal, and @Newcastle) and all came when partnered in the double pivot with Paulinho. His defensive work was great. He led the team in interceptions per game and was near the top in tackles. I think Capoue is a useful player, but he wasn't exactly great this season. With Sandro always missing some time and Nabil Bentaleb not being all that great playing as a holder, Capoue is a necessary piece to this team, unless you believe Jake Livermore is coming back or Veljkovic or one of the other youngsters is ready to step up. C.

Mousa Dembele: Dembele gets a lot of stick for all the things that he isn't. He doesn't score goals, he's not a great passer from deep, etc. He doesn't however, get nearly enough credit for all the things that he is. Dembele is an excellent dribbler and his powerful runs would have helped open up defenses if his teammates knew how to move of the ball. Despite his perceived deficiency as a pass, Dembele completed a higher percentage of his passes than any any other Spurs player. He also continued to break up play effectively in the midfield. The most frustrating thing about Dembele is the ponderous pace at which he plays the game. Too often the ball seemed to stop circulating for several second when he got on it. And not for any important reason, just because Dembele seems to like slowing the game down. More often than not it did a disservice to his teammates who seemed ready to play at a faster pace. B.

Sandro: I'm not going to lie. Sandro was pretty much a non-factor this year. Part of that was down to the injury bug and part of that seemed to be due to a perceived lack of quality by former manager Tim Sherwood. When fit, I think Sandro is one of the best defensive midfielders in football, but he didn't really show that form this season. This season Sandro showed some regression. His passing was worse, and while his tackling and intercepting were about the same, his positioning and giveaways in midfield were often costly, especially since he's supposed to shield the Tottenham backline. I know we love the Beast, but he didn't play like a Beast this season and I seriously question if he ever will play that way for a full season. C.

Nabil Bentaleb: I don't think many Tottenham fans could have seen his emergence coming. Bentaleb is a tough one to grade though for a couple of reasons. First, like Paulinho, he was so obviously used incorrectly for much of the season. When played in the right role he looked pretty decent. Second, he's perceived to be Tim Sherwood's guy and caught a lot of stick for that. In fairness, playing Bentaleb so much late in the season could wind up being Sherwood's greatest contribution to the club. The nineteen year-old seemed at home on the pitch most of the time and was rarely overwhelmed by the moment. He needs more first team experience, but he, unlike our lord and savior Tom Carroll, has shown that he is capable of playing week in and week out in the Premier League. His touch let him down at times and when playing as a holder (which he should never do) he made some dangerous passes that put his teammates under pressure. I assume some of that is down to Sherwood's "style" and some of that is down to lack of experience. For a 19 year-old in his first Premier League season, Bentaleb did well. B.

There are my grades. Upon reflection they seem pretty bad, even though I thought our midfield was pretty good at times. Now it's time for you to grade!

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