All throughout the preseason one of the biggest questions we’ve wondered about is what Tottenham Hotspur’s pivot will look like to start the season. With Mousa Dembele suspended for the first four matches of the season after raking Diego Costa’s face in last season’s match against Chelsea, Spurs’ central midfield is guaranteed to look different from the one that took the pitch for the majority of last season.
Most fans believed that there were two (maybe three) possibilities to line up beside Eric Dier: Vincent Wanyama, Ryan Mason, and (maybe) Harry Winks. Now, in comments given in a pre-match press conference, Poche has given the strongest hint yet of who we will see start tomorrow: it’s Wanyama.
“It is true that Mousa was important for us last season and is a big loss for us in the first few games, but we need to deal with that. It is not fair to say that the team dropped because Mousa was not in the team. Dele Alli was not there, too, and the whole team dropped.
“Victor knows us, how we work and the philosophy. It was easy for him to adapt his quality in the team. From the first day of pre-season he felt very comfortable and settled. This is a good help for us.”
Did Poche come right out and say that Wanyama would be starting the match at Goodison Park tomorrow? Well, no. But he’s bringing up Victor’s name after talking directly about Mousa’s absence from the team. That’s a pretty strong indication that we’re likely to see Wanyama-Dier.
If that’s indeed the case, it will be the first time we’ve seen these two play together, and a Wanyama-Dier pivot will almost certainly be more defensive than what we’re used to seeing. Don’t expect Wanyama to burst forward into space like Ryan Mason, and likewise, don’t expect as many fancy dribbles as you might see with Dembele. What you WILL likely see is Dier shielding the defense and Wanyama operating more as a shuttler, looking to get the ball out of danger and to the attacking midfielders, but perhaps not dictating play as much as we’re used to. He’s strong and good with the ball, and it’s a safe pick.
That might not be too bad a strategy for an away match against Everton in the first match of the season. It’s not uncommon for many teams who are still polishing their play to not come out firing on all cylinders offensively, so a little more defensive oomph could be a good thing.
I’d expect either or both Mason and Winks to be on the bench on Saturday regardless.