Cartilage Free Captain's season in review for the 2015-16 season continues today as we look at the campaign for midfielder Ryan Mason.
Number of suits that look bad on him: 0
What Went Right?
For the second season, Ryan Mason was pegged in the senior squad as a player who would contribute meaningful minutes whenever needed. Mason predominantly assumed his role from last year by sitting alongside a teammate in a two man midfield. Last year, it was mainly Nabil Bentaleb. This year, it was Eric Dier.
Mason's strength lies in making forward runs and trying to help break up a tight defense. He's very good at making these runs, usually finding his slots in between a fullback and central defender. When he timed these runs well, and usually he did, players like Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane, and Dele Alli could find him and feed the ball to him. There is no better instance of this than his match against Sunderland back in September.
(Video credit to YT Channel JakeMantonTHFC)
Mason made several forward runs in that match and found some solid passing lanes, but creating that goal was one of his finer points of the season. He paid the price for it as he got chopped down just after getting his shot off, but one thing you can never derogatorily say about Ryan Mason is his commitment and energy he provides. This was Mason at his best. He'll give you all that he has.
What Went Wrong?
Repeat after me, please: Ryan Mason is not a central midfielder.
This is the problem that has faced Spurs since Mason broke into the senior squad last season against Nottingham Forest. Ryan Mason is an attacker, a player who can make those timed runs as I mentioned above. There are three problems with what Mason does as a CM that isn't a problem as an AM:
1) It takes longer to complete these runs since he's coming from a deeper position.
2) If he does not finish the run with a goal, it leaves him unable to help with a counter-press because he's now behind the opposing side's back four
3) It exposes the midfield as he's now way out of position and forces his midfield partner to pick up the slack.
You love a player that will give you all that he has and can be a spark of energy, and while Ryan Mason as an attacking midfielder makes far more sense than Ryan Mason as a central midfielder, the problem lies in that Mason is sixth in the pecking order behind Eriksen, Alli, Lamela, Chadli, and Son. With Nabil Bentaleb injured most of the season, Mason was once again asked to play a position he is not suited to play. He had flashes where he looked fine, but it was almost inevitable that he would run out of position and leave Dier to fend for himself.
The difference between Mason and Mousa Dembele is that Dembele would look to feed the ball to the attackers and then backtrack into a spot where he could start the press again if needed. This is the difference between a Dier-Dembele midfield and a Dier-Mason midfield. Need proof? Look at the matches without Moose at the end of the season.
Whether or not Ryan Mason's time in North London is finished remains to be seen. He's been linked to Bournemouth, Hull City, Stoke City, and Sunderland, which means that there is demand for a high energy guy that will probably be played in a position better suited for Mason's strengths. The good news for Tottenham in this aspect is that a possible bidding war could be sparked and Spurs' could get a decent fee for a guy who is 25 years old and can bring a lot to a mid-table club.
Ryan Mason was a fine substitute for Tottenham when they were still in Europa League, but with Tottenham now in the Champions' League, it means that upgrades are needed in order to not only compete in the biggest club competition there is, but better depth is needed to make sure that there is as little drop off as possible when the Starting XI needs a rest. Mason doesn't fit this bill. He's a square peg in a round hole in central midfield and he isn't good enough to trump the current players in the attacking band. With Spurs locking on to players such as Batshuayi, Janssen, and an expected defensive midfielder, this leaves Mason to play the random cup tie here and there and that's about it.
For me, I will appreciate the love that Ryan Mason has for Tottenham Hotspur, but it's time to move on. He'll be a great asset for a rising club, but he is no longer a player good enough for this club.
Rating: 2.5 Chirpys