Though at times as we get into the season it might be a little difficult to identify a WCH to counterpart our Spurs MOTM each week, this particular decision was a breeze to make. That is because against Cardiff City, once again, Mousa Dembele produced a performance as influential as it was understated, to the point where some elements of the Twittersphere actually ended up coming down quite (unnecessarily) hard on the Belgian even after the favourable result was secured.
Though his midfield partner Paulinho will be taking away the accolades for the game his superbly-taken backheeled winner (as well as another generally sound all-round performance leading up to it), Dembele demonstrated a superior work rate against Cardiff, taking touches all over the pitch and more frequently in deeper areas than the Brazilian in order to help Tottenham build from the back. He recycled possession excellently with 92% of his passes completed succesfully, made three interceptions, and completed an excellent (though by his own standards fairly ordinary) five dribbles, all of which collectively speaks to a grafting box-to-box performance.
Furthermore, the key for me this week was that Dembele racked up these stats whilst fulfilling a role that buttressed the team's wider performance very well- at once unflashy and pivotal. In my eyes, what we're finally starting to see from him is an arguably necessary evolution from primary creator, a role which he played last season but has seemingly now lost to Christian Eriksen, into a deeper-sitting, thoroughly modern pivot player who is prepared primarily to carry the water for his teammates with consistent tackling and responsible passing but will also infrequently step up and drive forward into attack when need be.
Unlike last term, Dembele is now far from a locked-in starter for the rest of the season as Andre Villas-Boas attempts to accommodate a vast array of central midfielders who bring different and valuable traits to the table. Most importantly of all if he wants to remain a valued member of the first XI, he still needs to try and shake off his frustrating habit of holding on to the ball a second longer than he should when transitioning from deeper positions into the opposition half. But he barely put a foot wrong against Cardiff, and it's quite obvious that we could do much worse than continue to use him as a foil for Little Paul even if other tactical options might still appear more tempting for games played on the road.
(All stats from Squawka.com).
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