Cartilage Free Captain is starting its annual series of reviewing the players of Tottenham Hotspur and how they performed in the last Premier League season. This is the second player review for the 2016-17 campaign. Today's subject: winger Moussa Sissoko.
Appearances: 34 (25 EPL, 4 FA Cup, 4 UCL, 1 Europa League)
Assists: 3 (No really, he did!)
Cards: 3Y, 0R
What went right?
This is a tough question to answer, which says a lot about Moussa Sissoko’s first season at Spurs.
For starters, Sissoko seemed to get along well with most of the squad, despite coming into the team after pre-season as a deadline day signing. Big-money players who are struggling or out of the first team can sometimes be an issue in the dressing room. By all accounts, that didn’t happen with Sissoko. We didn’t like what he did on the pitch, but he wasn’t a bad influence elsewhere.
Sissoko’s appearance off the bench at Old Trafford almost helped us get a late equalizer. His powerful runs gave Matteo Darmian fits, and left Spurs fans thinking that maybe he should’ve been subbed on sooner.
The Frenchman’s most influential moment of the season was the assist on Danny Rose’s winning goal against Burnley in December. He dominated a midfielder to keep the ball, broke forward into space, and slid a pass to Rose on the left to smash past Tom Heaton. If only we could’ve seen more of that Moussa.
He also managed assists against Swansea and Aston Villa. For a brief/hilarious period in December he had as many Premier League assists on the season as Mesut Ozil did.
Towards the end of the campaign he finally proved himself to be world class! Not at the traditional parts of the game, really just at keeping the ball near the corner flag to hold onto a lead at Selhurst Park.
What went wrong?
A lot. Where should I begin?
I guess it makes sense to start with the original sin, the purchase of Sissoko from Newcastle for £30 million. The fact that he was bought on deadline day, for a club record fee after a bidding war, means that expectations were always going to be high. But Moussa never even came close to meeting them.
This was a player who had done quite well for France at the Euros just last summer, but for Spurs he looked like a completely different entity. His first-touch was anything but controlled, his passes were ill-advised and wasteful, and his pressing was weak compared to the players ahead of him in the team. He’d often receive the ball in attack and just kind-of stand over it for a few seconds, not entirely sure where to go next.
Sissoko’s role in the frustrating October match at Bournemouth was a microcosm for his season.
Spurs drew 0-0, a result which would come back to bite them later as they attempted to chase Chelsea for the title. Mauricio Pochettino’s side were struggling to create with Harry Kane out injured, so Sissoko was brought on to change the match. The only change the move brought was putting Sissoko directly in the way of some of Kyle Walker’s promising attacks down the right.
At one point, the referee didn’t see Sissoko deliver an elbow to the head of Bournemouth’s Harry Arter. Moussa apologized post-game to Arter, but he was still retroactively suspended for three games following the incident.
For the record if he had done this to Jack Wilshere, it would’ve been listed in the “What went right?” section of this review. But in this case Sissoko didn’t allocate his resources properly, just like Spurs didn’t in August.
Tottenham clearly need to accept the Sissoko experiment as a failure, and Daniel Levy needs to cut his losses.
Sissoko is about to be 28 and won’t be improving much as a player. Thus far at Spurs he has been exactly what Newcastle fans always said he was: powerful on his day, but generally very poor and overrated.
Marseille, who are also known for making questionable transfers, seem to have genuine interest in him. Levy is a genius if he can recover £20 mil of the £30 mil we paid for him, but most likely he’ll be moved on this summer for closer to £15 mil.
Rating: 1 Chirpy