Cartilage Free Captain is reviewing each of Spurs' first team players and evaluating their season. The series continues today with Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Mousa Dembele.
Minutes played: 1841
What went right?
For a short period of time, Mousa Dembele was very useful as a defensive No. 10. Mauricio Pochettino turned to him in the role at the end of January, which worked wonders for the midfield behind him and, to a lesser extent, Christian Eriksen. With Dembele doing most of the defensive work, Eriksen had a bit more energy for the creating and scoring he's supposed to be doing. And because he did that work, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb looked a lot less exposed.
If you're looking for an advanced playmaker to make the final pass and score goals, Dembele isn't your guy. His stats above tell the whole story in this regard, but it's not like he's completely useless from an attacking standpoint. Dembele was better at retaining possession and distributing to the wings than anyone else who operated in his position this season, though Spurs didn't exactly have good enough creative wingers or crossing fullbacks for this to be a worthwhile skill.
What went wrong?
That run lasted just four league games. Dembele was poor in the first half of a 2-2 draw against West Ham, was yanked at halftime, and wasn't given another start until the final game of the season. From then on, Spurs played Eriksen in the hole, to mixed results. While it makes sense to play your best central attacking midfielder in that spot, Eriksen does a lot less defensively than Dembele -- which is hardly a criticism.
Ultimately, Dembele's problem is similar to Mason and Tom Carroll's problem -- he's a tweener. He's not quite creative enough to rack up assists from the No. 10 role, but he's not good enough defensively to be a great pivot player. He should be one of the two runners in a 4-3-3.
(Related: why didn't we ever try out a 4-3-3?)
I'm not sure, but he's probably gone. There's a chance that Dembele's given a chance to win a spot in preseason, but Carroll's return to the team and play in two post-season friendlies will make that harder. He's cheaper to retain than Dembele and home-grown for European registration purposes.
There has to be a decent transfer market for Dembele. Will he fetch what Spurs paid for him? Probably not, but a £10m fee isn't totally out of the question. He's been good enough for Belgium that his poor performances for Spurs shouldn't scare anyone off. He's been a solid player for Spurs, and one that was misutilized for almost his entire tenure with the club, but it's probably time for him to go.
Grade: 3 Chirpys