Who really needs a midfield anyway?
That’s one way to sum up this ridiculous season for Tottenham Hotspur. Mauricio Pochettino’s team are in the Champions League final despite going nearly the whole season with a patchwork midfield. Injuries took their toll, but Spurs always found a way, even if it meant playing Danny Rose at CM for lengthy periods of time.
Most of them didn’t see a lot of time on the pitch, but there were some actual midfielders employed by the club this season. Here’s how every central midfielder performed this year, along with some thoughts on their futures at the club.
People really need to stop doubting Moussa Sissoko, especially after the season that he and Spurs have just had.
At various points this year, Tottenham’s midfield was an empty pantry. A hungry Mauricio Pochettino would look to the shelves for something he could use to make a meal, only to discover time and time again that ingredients were expired because Daniel Levy hadn’t gone to the grocery store like he said he was planning to.
Sissoko is the main reason that Spurs’ barren midfield worked well enough to earn the squad a place in the Champions League final. Without Sissoko’s efforts, Spurs go out in the group stage and probably miss out on the top four.
Sissoko’s strength has always been apparent, but he’s really so much more than that. At times he was the only connection between Tottenham’s defenders and attackers. He showed a more nuanced side to his game as he was able to drop deep to collect passes, shuttle the ball deftly through midfield, and eventually slide the ball off to one of the team’s playmakers at the front.
In a 1-0 victory at the London Stadium in October, Sissoko was probably the man of the match. West Ham players couldn’t get near him when he was on the ball, and they couldn’t get away from him when he was chasing it. His touch and accuracy will never win him awards, but they did win Spurs the game. His pinpoint cross gave Erik Lamela an easy header for the game’s only goal.
That moment, a skillful and accurate bit of offensive production, wouldn’t have been realistic during the Frenchman’s early days at the club. It was a clear sign of his progress.
It’s tough for me not to get emotional when thinking about Sissoko’s turnaround at Spurs. Even when it looked like his Tottenham career could not be salvaged, Moussa’s attitude and work ethic never faltered. He said as much to RMC back in April.
“I have come a long way. I have had two difficult seasons here, I have continued to work, I did not quit and things are going well this season. I have always believed in myself, my team-mates and my family too, that allows me to put in performances like this one. I know that I am not the most technical player, best player in the world, but I play with the qualities that I have. I have never taken myself to be someone I am not, I give the best of myself and that is how I am able to put in a performance like this, it made the coach happy.”
So it’s time to stop being surprised that Moussa Sissoko repeatedly performs as well as he does. This is the player he is now. He’s one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.
Rating: 4.5 Chirpys
Winks was one of a few Spurs midfielders who had trouble staying on the pitch this season. For the 23-year-old academy graduate, it was another year of being in and out of the medical trainer’s room. Winks only managed 17 appearances in the Premier League this campaign. Only eight of those appearances were starts, and Winks struggled heavily in some of them, especially back in the fall.
The Champions League was a different story. When Winks was available, he looked just like the deep-lying playmaker that Tottenham want him to be. He showed his quality in the wins over PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan in the group stage, and then again in the first legs of the knockout round clashes with Dortmund and Manchester City.
He suffered a groin injury and had to be subbed in that 1-0 win over City in April, and he hasn’t played since. His status for the Champions League final is up in the air, but his status for next season isn’t.
If Winks can stay healthy, he’s still a player with a lot of potential who is capable of playing the type of football that Spurs want to play.
Rating: 3 Chirpys
It was mostly a year to forget for the man who is now the longest-tenured member of Tottenham’s midfield.
It was also a year to forget for Dier’s internal organs. First, he had to undergo an appendectomy, then he dealt with tonsillitis. He ended up missing a good portion of December and January, and then the entire month of February, due to these ailments. He would later call this period “the most difficult four months” of his career.
His performances were inconsistent when he was healthy, but it should be noted that a bunch of those appearances came while playing alongside other central midfielders who didn’t best compliment his defensive tendencies.
There was a bright moment at the end of the year when Dier scored against Everton on the final day to tally his first goal in the new stadium.
With new signings finally rumored to be on the way, the future of Tottenham’s midfield is uncertain. The 25-year-old hasn’t really improved too much since his first couple seasons at the club, so it seems likely that Dier will be a squad player at the start of next year.
Rating: 2.5 Chirpys
Wanyama was such a crucial player during Tottenham’s final season at White Hart Lane. Big Vic was a mainstay in Spurs’ midfield pivot then. He provided some defensive steel in the middle of the park, but also still managed to score five goals at the other end. He was hardly the total offensive liability that some had claimed him to be. It’s safe to say he exceeded the expectations of Spurs fans after his transfer from Southampton.
Sadly, he is just not the same player anymore. Repeated injuries have sapped the 27-year-old of much of the agility and balance that he did possess. Wanyama missed quite a bit of time this year too, but he was at least healthy enough to provide another experienced body in midfield down the stretch.
The second leg with Ajax sort of summed up where Wanyama is right now in his career with Spurs. The Dutch side pass the ball around incredibly quickly, and the Kenyan just couldn’t keep up with the pace. He was subbed off at halftime, and the rest is history.
At this level, the game has passed him by.
Rating: 2.5 Chirpys
Skippy probably wasn’t ready for as much football as he got in 2018/19. Still just 18-years-old, Skipp was forced into action in Tottenham’s midfield due to injuries and the complete lack of new signings. He made 8 appearances in the Premier League, with two of those coming as starts.
He was mostly fine as a substitute, but he looked out of his depth as a starter. Skipp started the disastrous 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup. He wasn’t afraid to try and push the ball forward, but he’s still small and doesn’t possess the experience needed to navigate a Premier League midfield.
Hopefully Tottenham actually buy some players and Skipp gets a loan to a lower division to get some more games under his belt.