Nacer Chadli has been quiet for Tottenham Hotspur, but he came alive on Thursday, sparking a comeback bid in Europa League with a stunning brace, scoring two goals 90 seconds apart. It was the awakening we've been waiting for.
Whether one heaps most of the blame on Daniel Levy, Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood or Franco Baldini for Tottenham's failure to seriously contend for a top four place this season, it's clear that the seven new signings haven't worked out as planned. While Christian Eriksen has been excellent and Vlad Chiriches was solid before his injury, it's been an up and down season for Paulinho and Etienne Capoue. Roberto Soldado has been extremely disappointing and Erik Lamela has been constantly injured. Only one of the seven signings is a clear win at the moment.
Chadli has almost been the forgotten man, for a couple of reasons. First, because he was the least expensive, and second, because he was purchased before it became very obvious that Gareth Bale would be sold. He was bought as a compliment to what was already in the team, not as part of a post-Bale makeover. And, because of that, he's been a bit-part player who fans haven't exactly heaped tons of praise or criticism on. He's just been a guy.
And, weirdly, he's been moved into a second striker role over the last couple of games. He's played the position in the past, but he's spent most of his career as an inside-out left winger, a spot from which he's scored quite a few goals. While he's been merely average for Tottenham in the position, it's possible that he just needed time to adjust to the Premier League and his new teammates.
Chadli certainly doesn't lack the size to play in the Premier League. He's nearly 6'3" and built like a brick house. He also doesn't lack the skill to play at a higher level than the Eredivisie -- he's a truly excellent dribbler. His passing and crossing occasionally leaves a bit to be desired, but on the evidence of his record for Twente and his late-game heroics against Benfica on Thursday, he can certainly score.
However, it's worth noting that he only scored when he was moved away from the position he started in. Once Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen entered the game, Chadli found himself on the left more often and had opportunities to cut inside with the ball. He scored directly via those means for the first goal and started the move that led to the second in the exact same way. He looked like the perfect inside-out, system-completing left winger we always hoped he could be.
It's not unreasonable to hope that his two goals were not a fluke or the product of Benfica switching off, but a sign of things to come. There's no reason Chadli can't be a star who locks down the left wing spot for years to come. He's more two-footed than Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon, he's more athletic than Gylfi Sigurdsson and he's more of an actual winger than Eriksen, who belongs in the center.
Chadli can and should be given a chance to make that position his own.