Moussa Dembele has found himself underappreciated in the midst of Tottenham Hotspur’s sudden rise under Mauricio Pochettino. The Belgian has been rightfully overshadowed by the headline grabbers Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen but his contribution in the heart of midfield holds an equal amount of importance to Spurs’ major superstars.
The 30-year-old was destined to compete at the top level with the evidence of his performances in his native Belgium at Germinal Beerschot. He graduated from their academy, making his senior debut at just 16, and quickly attracted the likes of Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and fellow Dutch Eredivisie club Willem II.
His next destination proved to be the latter, although he spent just one season in the Dutch city of Tilburg, before moving around 157 kilometres north to Alkmaar. AZ were being managed by UEFA Champions League winner Louis Van Gaal, who’s renowned for nurturing young players, and he had an infectious impact on a young Moussa Dembele.
Dembele netted fourteen times in his debut season, as AZ narrowly missed out on the Eredivisie title to PSV Eindhoven. They were caught with their heads in the stars during the 2007/08 season and AZ and Dembele’s form suffered as a consequence.
The fairy tale season in 2006/07 was a distant memory, and their regression was seemingly set to continue into the 2008/09 campaign. They suffered two defeats in their opening two league fixtures but went onto lose just two more games to comfortably clinch the Dutch Eredivisie title by eleven points.
Louis Van Gaal departed to German Bundesliga giants FC Bayern Munich in the summer of 2009, but Dembele pledged his loyalty to the club for another season. Then, his dream of moving to the Premier League became a reality, when he joined Fulham in August 2010.
His ability on-the-ball was highlighted immediately in the Premier League, as the Belgian international began his career in England in a more advanced role. He ended his first campaign in the English top flight with five goals, but worked formidably with Fulham’s United States forward Clint Dempsey.
Martin Jol was fearful of losing the services of Dembele due to the quality of his performances. The Dutchman was simply unable to prevent him from progressing in his career and Tottenham Hotspur triggered a £15 million release clause in his contract to lure him to White Hart Lane.
Tottenham Hotspur had ripped the heart out of Fulham by also signing Dembele’s teammate Clint Dempsey just three days later. He discovered his aggressive characteristics in North London but has remained a consistent figure in their starting line-up, calculating a total of 225 appearances for The Lilywhites in all competitions.
He’s matured since arriving at Craven Cottage as a raw adolescent just under eight years ago. He’s taken up a deeper role in central midfield and flourished under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine played a key role in Tottenham Hotspur’s recent clashes against Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, which has provoked creditable words from former Spurs midfielder Jermaine Jenas, who’s described him as a ‘vacuum’.
Dembele’s ability to predict the future and prevent danger has proved incredibly important in their attacking style of play. Pochettino plays an attacking system, which consists of players building from the back and high pressing from the front. The Belgian’s admirable passing range is pivotal to them building from defence. He currently boasts a passing completion percentage of 92.6% in the Premier League and 91.5% in the UEFA Champions League according to WhoScored.
Whilst the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min may ripple the net and Christian Eriksen may sprinkle his magic to create such attacking situations, Dembele’s role in the team is equally as important.