Mousa Dembele was rested for Saturday’s 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur win over West Ham at the London Stadium, but most observers didn’t think much about it. Dembele started in Spurs’ midweek League Cup win over Barnsley and Mauricio Pochettino later said that he was a doubt for the West Ham game after picking up a knock to his ankle. It was expected that he would be fit in time to travel with the squad to take on APOEL in the Champions League this Tuesday.
Well, that injury appears to be more than just a knock. Pochettino today admitted that Dembele now could possibly miss the trip to Cyprus, and could be out even longer. And if that doesn’t scare you enough, Pochettino also raised the specter (although he denied it) that Dembele could even need surgery.
“We need to assess in the next few days. We don't know if it's possible for him to be available to go to Cyprus [to face APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League].
“And then we'll see about Huddersfield [on Saturday]. We need to check him every day. Maybe in the next few days, we'll take some decisions with the medical staff.
“I don't believe [he will need an operation]. I don't believe.
“But I cannot say nothing because now it's in the medical staff's hands. Now we need to assess him in between tomorrow and Monday and we'll see.”
So if we run this through the de-Pochettinizer, we can probably surmise that Dembele’s injury is probably more serious than anyone wants to admit and that he might be set for an extended spell on the sidelines. Poch is known for trying to downplay the injury status of his players, to the point where we probably shouldn’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth anymore when he gives updates on injuries.
That is all kinds of bad news for Spurs. With Victor Wanyama already on the long-term injury list, Spurs are now essentially without their starting central midfield. Losing Dembele is especially bad considering how crucial he is to the way Tottenham play in Pochettino’s tactical system. Spurs do have Harry Winks, but he’s only now back to full health (if not full fitness) and probably still isn’t ready to become a full-time starter.
We know that Dembele isn’t getting any younger and Poch has already admitted that he may never be fully fit again in his career, but this is still pretty bad. The Standard article suggests that his role will be filled by Moussa Sissoko. That’s not great, but Sissoko has been more effective in central midfield this season than he ever was in the forward attacking band, so hopefully Spurs will be able to weather the storm.